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New report says Nevada remains average in providing public access to government spending


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada barely earned a C grade for its efforts in providing online access to government spending data with a score of 70, according to the latest report: “Following the Money 2012”, released this week by a national group.

The report from the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) ranked Nevada 31st among the states, with Texas coming in at No. 1 with a score of 98 and Idaho coming in last with a score of 6.

Following the Money 2012.

Nevada’s score declined slightly from the 2011 report when it earned a 74.

It is the U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s third annual ranking of states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

The report found that continued progress has been made over the past year, with new states providing online access to government spending information and several states pioneering new tools to further expand citizens’ access to spending information and engagement with government.

The release was timed to coincide with Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

Nevada was identified as one of 14 “emerging states” with a C grade for its transparency website, which was described as having checkbook-level detail that is easily searchable, but that is far less comprehensive in terms of detail as the 21 states with A and B grades.

Nevada’s under-performing areas include the inability to search for information by a keyword or activity, only partial ability to obtain contract or summary information, a lack of access to tax expenditure reports, and the inability to download data.

Nevada’s transparency ranking may soon improve, however, as the state moves into a new era of Priorities and Performance Based Budgeting (PPBB).

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp discussed the new budget process, which was used to a limited extent in the 2011 budget, during a budget planning session today with state administrators. The new budget development process was required as a result of legislation passed in 2011.

One of the goals of the new budget process is to provide increased accountability of state government, he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has involved his entire cabinet in the process, which has identified four strategic priorities for his administration: sustainable and growing economy, educated and healthy citizenry, safe and livable communities, and efficient and responsive state government.

There are also eight core functions of government, from public safety to education and workforce development.

“Our goal throughout this process was to improve transparency,” Mohlenkamp said.

Change is not easy, he said.

“But major decision-makers in the state, starting with the governor, have put their weight behind moving Nevada forward,” Mohlenkamp said.

Audio clips:

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp says the new budgeting process is about transparency:

031512Mohlenkamp1 :30 trying to accomplish.”

Mohlenkamp says Gov. Sandoval and others want to move forward:

031512Mohlenkamp2 :14 moving Nevada forward.”

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