Why should counties improve their transparency?

By Caleb Taylor

What can county governments do to improve transparency?

ACRE Policy Analyst Mavuto Kalulu and Program Coordinator Terra Aquia discussed this and more with Paul Harrell on the Conduit News radio program on September 26th.

Kalulu and Aquia along with Joyce Ajayi, a candidate in the Interdisciplinary PhD in Leadership Studies program at the University of Central Arkansas, are authors of a recently-released Transparency Index. This inaugural index ranks all Arkansas counties by how much financial, political and administrative information their websites contain.

Kalulu and Aquia note in the report that Arkansas counties earned an F grade in the 2013 Transparency Report Card produced by the Sunshine Review, a non-profit in existence from 2008 to 2013 that advocated for government transparency.

Kalulu said in the interview that county officials should focus on improving transparency because it encourages fiscal restraint and can limit corruption.

Kalulu said:

County governments are very important because the services they provide affect the daily lives of every constituent. When taxpayer money isn’t being used in the right way, it’s the constituents that are suffering, so people need to know what is happening at the county level.”

Aquia noted that there are ways for all counties to “improve and improve quickly” if they’re unsatisfied with their ranking in the inaugural index.

Aquia said:

Some things that we recommend are to sit down and evaluate your county’s ranking. What’s your platform to getting your information to the public? After you’ve done that, the types of information that we’re looking for that would really improve transparency the most are uploading your annual budgets to the website, updating links to your audit information, updating your current and past bid winners, financial disclosures, meeting agendas…things like this. At the county level, it’s important for elected officials to be promoting transparency and encouraging the people in their communities to make use of the resources they provide.”

You can listen to their full interview below:

Coverage of the Transparency Index recently appeared in both mysaline.com and the Log Cabin Democrat. Kalulu and Aquia also published an op-ed entitled “For transparency” in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sept. 29th.