Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 9:26 pm

Seeing is believing


I almost never respond to “blogwhoring,” the practice of requesting a link to something online, even though I occasionally indulge in it myself. Tonight I’m making an exception.

Back when the Web was new, I took a day trip over to Durham to report and write a story for the N&R on how that city’s government was using the Web and technology to create unprecedented transparency. It looked so beneficial to the public and so conducive to good government that I wondered why every government wasn’t moving in that direction.

The question answers itself, of course: A significant number of people, both in government and in businesses that do business with government, don’t want to benefit the public and have good government. They want to profit off the public teat. It’s been true at just about every level of government, involving both major political parties, over the years, although I suspect what’s now going on at the federal level is unprecedented in scope.

Eric Kavanaugh thinks we should do something about it:

… every check the feds cut — with the exception of entitlement and top-secret programs — should be visible online, just as consumers can now see their own canceled checks via the Web. Seeing is believing; and when Americans everywhere can see all those checks from their laptops, it’s fair to say that bureaucrats and contractors alike will be on their best (or at least better) behavior.Furthermore, since the Internet is interactive, each one of those government checks should be linked in succession: to the purchase orders that authorized them, the contracts that generated those purchase orders, the approved proposals that led to the contracts, the losing proposals that were also considered, the requests for proposal that solicited all relevant proposals, the allocations which authorized expenditures, the bills that set in motion the allocations, who voted which way on each, who failed to vote (a highlight on these derelicts), and the processes by which those bills became law.

While that might sound incredibly complex, the truth is that technology today is so advanced, computers so fast, software so powerful, methodologies so polished and practiced, that accomplishing this system could be done inside of two years. In fact, templates already exist throughout the chambers of corporate America, in large part due to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (developed in response to the shenanigans of Enron). And if public corporations must answer to the government, shouldn’t the government answer to the public? What’s good for the goose …

I don’t know for a fact that this proposal could be implemented as quickly as he says. I do know, however, that the current system is so badly broken that any effort like this would have trouble making things any worse.

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