Increase Transparency Day 2: Make Contracts and Lobbying Information More Easily Accessible
On Monday, I posted about the need for increased transparency when it comes to County employee’s salaries and benefits packages. Today, we continue with two other key areas where DuPage County should be more transparent to taxpayers.
—Contracts: The Illinois Policy Institute suggests government websites should include easily accessed "rules governing contracts posted online for the past 5 years, including labor agreements with all employee groups, bids and contracts for purchases over $25,000 and the vendor's campaign contributions posted with contract."
Since taxpayers pay DuPage County’s bills it’s essential that residents are able to have easy access to bids and contracts, but also to labor agreements and vendor’s campaign contributions.
While information regarding bids and contracts for purchases over $25,000 is posted online in the DuPage County Board packets from meetings, if someone were looking for a particular past contract he or she would either need to know which meeting it was discussed in or would have to go through every board meeting packet. This information should be easy to access and not buried in the packet. As an example: the Village of Schaumburg does a good job of providing this information.
With this kind of access, taxpayers are able to see if contracts were no-bid or if potential cronyism was at play. Also, they’re able to make sure that the County is choosing well for the taxpayers.
—Lobbying: Putting lobbying information online is especially important because few citizens realize they pay lobbying expenses. With openness surrounding lobbying expenses, citizens can determine for themselves whether the money is well spent. DuPage County does a nice job of putting the lobbyists’ names on the website, but without information on how much lobbyist are paid and what they are being paid for, residents cannot decide if the services provided are worth the investment. As an example: Anderson County (South Carolina) does a good job of providing this information.
This issue is similar to that of contracts. DuPage County does post money spent on lobbyists and what they are lobbying for in the DuPage County Board packets from meetings. But once again, this information should be more easily accessible—and not requiring taxpayers to drudge through years of board meeting packets.
Next week: How DuPage County can improve transparency in one surprisingly last area.