U.S. PIRG Following the Money 2014 Report

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The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., releases an annual report on state transparency websites, including how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[1] State governments throughout the country have created transparency websites that provide information on government spending so users can view the payments made to individual companies as well as details about the purchased goods, services or other public benefits in a particular state. According to the report, states have made varying levels of progress toward improved online spending transparency.[1]

2014 report

According to the report, throughout 2014, new states have opened the books on public spending and several states have adopted new practices to further expand citizens’ access to spending information. Other states, however, are lagging to provide residents and users with state spending information in an easily navigable format.

The report categorized each state according to an A-F scale (for more information on methodology, see below:

  • 8 states received a grade of A
  • 20 states received a grade of B
  • 10 states received a grade of C
  • 9 states received a grade of D
  • 3 states received a grade of F

Complete rankings

Methodology

Evaluation criteria

The report evaluated state websites based on how comprehensive, one-stop, and searchable/downloadable the website's content was.[2]

  • Comprehensive:

This criterion measured whether the web portal was user-friendly, provided residents the ability to look at detailed information about a state government's contracts, subsides, spending, and tax revenue for all state government entities.

  • One-Stop:

A state's website was "one-stop" if users could access all government expenditures on a single website.

  • One-Click, Searchable and Downloadable:

This criterion measured how easily users could search data or browse categories, and also whether users could easily download data.

Explanation of grades

Points were assigned to states based on the websites that provide information on that state's government spending. These points were tallied into both a numerical score and a letter grade.[2] A single website was graded for each state. If any states had a designated website for transparency, that website was graded. If a state had more than one transparency website, U.S. PIRG graded the transparency website that earned the highest score. If states lacked a designated transparency website, the state website with the highest possible score was used.[2]

  • States in top-line quality and transparency (“A” range): These states were leaders in online spending transparency. They were user-friendly, accessible, and contained data that was easily downloaded.
  • States that are advancing in quality and transparency (“B” range): These states were "advancing" to a higher level of transparency. They contained spending information that was easy to access but less detailed than "A" states. Most advancing states were searchable.
  • States with average quality and transparency (“C” range): These states were middling in online spending transparency. They contained comprehensive information and were user-friendly, but other information (including subsidies and off-budget items) was limited.
  • States lagging in quality and transparency (“D” range): These lagging states were less accessible to users than higher level states. While these states had searchable websites, users could not download the data.
  • States failing in quality and transparency (“F” range): These states failed to meet several of U.S. PIRG's standards for online spending transparency. For example, the spending data for these states were not searchable online.

See also

External links

References