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Transparency achieved by independence

Although the state of Kentucky took steps last week to improve government transparency, these measures simply are not enough — and won’t ever be until we have an independent watchdog controlling the information about how tax dollars are spent.

State Treasurer Allison Ball and Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary William Landrum announced recently that changes to the website — transparency.ky.gov — now includes spending details from the state’s judicial branch and will be updated more regularly.

The website itself has been up for a while but portions of it had not been updated for several years. The site now includes a searchable list of state contracts, property owned by the state and a database of state salary information that will be updated twice a month. It also includes educational information about how the state budget becomes law and other resources for parents and teachers.

These improvements are all welcome news, but simply do not go far enough.

We will never feel confident we are getting true transparency until the state government creates a mechanism for an independent agency to oversee the website and information it contains.

The best way to do this would be to turn over this website to the Kentucky Press Association or some collaborative effort from the state’s newspapers, a move that could also help preserve public notifications for years to come.

For years, government agencies have attempted to weaken or circumvent the open records and public notification laws by minimizing publications in newspapers. This year was no different.

Thankfully it didn’t happen.

Focusing on transparency and public notices at the same time would strengthen the process and provide great assurances to citizens that both of these will continue for years to come.