JEFFERSON CITY - The transparency of government spending in Missouri is only average, according to a study released Tuesday by the MoPIRG Foundation. For the fourth straight year, "Following the Money 2013: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data" looked at how easy it is for residents in each of the 50 states to access information online about state spending.
Missouri received a "C" rating, which means it is an "emerging state" for the second consecutive year. Emerging states have a transparency websites with information on contracts and other expenditures, but the websites provide minimal information on spending outside of the states' usual accounting systems.
Researchers determined state grades based on a point system. The online accessibility of tax expenditures, state grants, searchable records, city and county spending, government contracts, and other expenditures all factor into the report. Missouri received a low number of points for state grants, city and county spending, tax expenditures and off-budget agencies. This means that Missourians have limited online access to seeing where the government is spending their tax money and state grants.
Alec Sprague, a spokesman for U.S. PIRG, MoPIRG's parent organization, said easy access to information is important because it holds government officials accountable.
"States save money by putting this information online because contracts become more competitive, because reporters will actually find information on spending that maybe shouldn't be spent and bring attention to that information. And then we also find that there's some redundancies between departments," he added.
According to the report, "The best state transparency tools are highly searchable, engage citizens, and include detailed information-allowing all the information to be put to good use."
The report also listed recommendations for states to improve. Providing downloadable and searchable line-by-line spending reports, more information on state grants, spending reports for cities and counties and information about off-budget agencies are all recommended for Missouri.