Transparency

Web Transparency Index

2018: Access Arkansas: County Web Transparency co-authored by ACRE Policy Analyst Mavuto Kalulu, ACRE Program Coordinator Terra Aquia and Joyce Ajayi.

2019: Access Arkansas: County Web Transparency co-authored by ACRE Policy Analysts Joyce Ajayi and Dr. Mavuto Kalulu

2020: Access Arkansas: County Web Transparency co-authored by ACRE Policy Analysts Joyce Ajayi and Dr. Mavuto Kalulu.

ACRE Research Papers

“COVID Relief Done Right: A Local Government Transparency Guide for Following the One-Time Influx of Funds” by Joyce O. Ajayi and Ashley Phillips

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Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments have received an influx of funds from the United States Treasury Department (U.S. Treasury) to help pay for unexpected eligible expenses and replace lost revenue. When the U.S. Treasury released these funds, our policy analysts at the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE) began conversing with local county officials about transparency. From our conversations, we learned that officials wanted guidance on how to track and report the receipt and use of these funds. For four years, ACRE has worked with Arkansas counties to achieve web transparency—to make more information about how local governments operate available to the public online. Most notably, ACRE publishes a biennial transparency report called Access Arkansas: County Web Transparency. The report measures and encourages fiscal, political, and administrative
transparency in county governance. “COVID Relief Done Right,” provides background on the one-time influx of COVID-19 relief funds in Arkansas and a toolkit for local transparency and accountability in the use of these funds, including a web transparency checklist.

“COVID Relief Fund Reporting: How States are Promoting Transparency” by Dr. Mavuto Kalulu

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In the wake of COVID-19, states, local governments, tribes and territories (prime recipients) received $150 billion through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to address the pandemic’s impact. In most cases, how prime recipients chose to apply the funds was largely left to their best judgement. Likewise, there was no standard level of detail they were required to adhere to when reporting how CRF funds were spent; some entities traced expenditures through specific projects and subcontractors while others simply provided a broad category of use. Utilizing online technology to provide accountability for the use of these funds, even though federal guidelines do not require it, is essential to transparency. Arkansas provided some level of CRF transparency but fell short of achieving that of many other Southern states. The CFR ended in December, 2020, but the transparency of the use of these funds is still important. Extending Arkansas’ commitment to transparency and dedicating the necessary resources to carry through on that commitment will reduce the opportunities for fraud and build trust between the government and stakeholders, such as tax payers and the media, while also reducing costs associated with information requests. Bolstering the state’s transparency efforts will push Arkansas forward and match our neighbors, making it a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Arkansas should also apply these CFR transparency lessons to the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, which is part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and runs until December, 2026.

“Political Transparency for Improved Resident Participation” by Dr. Mavuto Kalulu and Joyce O. Ajayi

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Arkansas’s outdated open public meetings law does not fully promote public attendance and representation at quorum court meetings. Kalulu and Ajayi propose a solution to increase the chances that more residents will attend. It is good governance for elected officials to ensure that residents are not only aware of the quorum courts’ decisions but are represented in the decision-making process.

“Improve Transparency in Arkansas: Every Arkansas County Needs Fiscal Data Available On-Line” by J.T. Schrock and Dr. David Mitchell

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The authors surveyed each Arkansas county’s web presence, and did not find a consistent structure or consistent content for the websites. Many Arkansas counties have no significant web presence. One-third of the counties had no website for the county government in any form. Only a handful of the remaining counties had made any fiscal and budgetary information available on their website. Schrock and Mitchell estimate that no more than 11 percent of the voting public are likely to see the Annual Financial Report under Arkansas’s current requirement. ACRE’s solution for this problem would be to increase the county-government web presence for every county in Arkansas, and especially to include government financial data, made available to the public anytime, on demand. This information should be presented in a quality and structure that can be easily understood by anyone with a reasonable background in reading financial or business data. Finally, the information should be complete and be inclusive of all areas of government responsible to the county judge.

Radio

  • ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu and Program Coordinator Terra Aquia were on Conduit News Radio on September 26, 2018, discussing their recently released transparency index.

Op-Eds and Commentary

  • Separate Duties: op-ed by Dr. Mavuto Kalulu in the August 15, 2022 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Kalulu discusses the need for accountability in government spending, providing examples of government employees who have embezzled taxpayer dollars and examining the vulnerabilities within the system that allowed them to do so.

  •  For Public Trust: op-ed by Acre Policy Analysts Joyce Ajayi and Joseph Johns in the April 4, 2022 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Ajayi and Johns focus on localities’ use of websites to provide information to the public.
  • “Open it up”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Joseph Johns in the February 25, 2022 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In his op-ed, Johns discusses the benefits of transparency in government.
  • “Make it Easy: Relief-Fund Musn’t be Hard”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette December 9, 2021. Kalulu  discusses the need for all levels of government to be transparent in the use of COVID-19 relief funds. 
  • “Open the books!”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Joyce Ajayi published in the November 12, 2021 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette discusses how the Arkansas state government can encourage fiscal transparency of the influx of ARPA funds.
  • “Be Transparent: Shine Light on Covid-19 Funds”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Mavuto Kalulu in the September 21, 2021 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette discusses the need for more detailed reporting of the COVID-19 relief funds at state level to promote trust.
  • Curb temptation“: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Joyce Ajayi published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on July 16, 2021. Ajayi discusses how local governments can prevent procurement corruption.
  • Still work to do“: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on May 20, 2021. Kalulu discusses the results of ACRE’s transparency index.
  • Take it online“: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on January 25, 2021. Kalulu discusses ways to improve online transparency.
  • “A Step at a Time”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on December 27, 2019. In the article, Kalulu discusses the benefits of Act 546.
  • “In Public View”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on September 20, 2019 discussing the benefits of county government transparency in the context of the Pope County casino construction deliberations.
  • “Stop Corruption”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on August 5th, 2019. Kalulu discussed solutions to this question and four steps officials can take to improve transparency in the state. 
  • “Open the Books: Can’t Catch It If You Can’t See It”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on January 28, 2019. Kalulu discusses the benefits of transparency to county governments, particularly how beneficial the improved management of tax dollars can be. He points out that a great way to get this benefit is to publish county budgets online.
  • “Open the Books! Let Public See County Fiscal Data”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on November 19, 2018. Kalulu explains the results of ACRE’s recently released transparency index and the reasons why county officials should care about improving their fiscal transparency.
  • “For Transparency: Should Be Proactive with Data”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu and Program Coordinator Terra Aquia, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on September 29, 2018.
  • “Open the Books”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu and Program Coordinator Terra Aquia, published in the Log-Cabin Democrat  on July 8, 2018.
  • Out in the Open: Transparency Keeps Us Honest”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Mavuto Kalulu and ACRE Research Assistant Terra Aquia, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on November 16, 2017.
  • “No App for That: Government Needs Transparency”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu and ACRE Research Assistant Terra Aquia, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on September 15, 2017.
  • “Transparency’s Sake: Be Ye Good Stewards of Our Money”: op-ed by ACRE policy analyst Mavuto Kalulu and UCA Assistant Professor of Accounting Ashley Phillips, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on June 23, 2017.
  • “A Transparent State: Make Accountability a Priority”: op-ed by ACRE Policy Analyst Jacob Bundrick, published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on January 19, 2017.

You can read more transparency-related commentary at The ACRE Review.