Indiana’s government transparency website has received high marks from two national organizations.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Sunshine Review, two independent, non-partisan national transparency organizations, each give the Indiana government transparency portal a grade of A-. The groups rated the site on a number of factors, including ease of use, quality of data presented and the ability to download and search for specific information.
The portal launched in the fall of 2010, and State Budget Agency Director Adam Horst said the goal was to gather as much data as the state could provide in one place.
“It includes state expenditures, state contracts, state employees, how much state employees get paid and performance measures on how state agencies are doing, just a litany of information,” he said.
Indiana earned the third-highest score among all 50 states and was one of only five states to achieve a grade higher than B+. But while the website received high scores in nearly all categories, it got low marks for not providing information on expenditures for quasi-public agencies, like the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commission and the Ports Authority, or information on state-paid lobbyists and lobby agency contracts.
Horst said the state is constantly working to improve their website in a number of areas.
“So you might be able to say, we’re spending this much money on office supplies,” said Horst. “What we can’t drill down to yet, and some of it’s a technology restriction, but we can’t drill all the way down to say how much did you spend this month with Staples versus Office Max, and I think taxpayers are interested in that information.”
Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, who said Senate Democrats have long called for more openness in the Indiana government, said the website is good, but there is much more work to be done.
“Well, a website does not make an honest government or an open government, but it is a start,” Simpson said.
Simpson also wants to see improvements to the portal.
“The website is not as easy to manipulate or maneuver in terms of getting in and getting information, accessing information, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for and don’t know what questions to ask.”
Horst said the state continues to work on putting more information on the site, which can be found at in.gov/itp.