Radical Transparency in Government Operations?


There has been a trend toward greater transparency in government operations over the Peoplepast decade, fueled in part by the Internet. The trend started with the Government Performance and Results Act in 1993. Agencies had to publish strategic plans, annual plans, and annual reports. In 2001, the Office of Management and Budget launched its Program Assessment Rating Tool and has since rated each major government program as to how well it works. The results of those reviews are now available to the public via expectmore.gov.

The management capacity of agencies has been regularly rated by OMB since 2002 as well, via the President’s Management Agenda. The management scorecard is updated quarterly at results.gov. In addition, OMB has required all agencies to publish on the Web their detailed performance budget justifications, not just brief summaries of their budget proposals.

In addition to these administrative efforts, Congress has been involved. In 2003, it required agencies to biennially survey employees and report results. It recently required OMB to develop a Google-like database so people can search who gets what from the federal government in terms of grants, loans, and earmarks. This bill is now undergoing implementation, with OMB requesting public comments.

Now, another new form of transparency! Congress is considering legislation to require all agencies to develop and report on customer service standards. According to press reports, this legislation seems to be moving through Congress with little opposition.

How far will this transparency trend go? What will be the implications of it? How should the next President approach this trend?


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