Our friends at OMBWatch just published an interesting post highlighting several studies that compare and contrast the policy and practice of transparency of the US and other countries based on comparative analysis of FOIA, foreign aid, and budgets and revenues. The post, entitled "Global Studies Highlight U.S. Transparency Strengths, Weaknesses" "...provide[s] useful measures of U.S. openness relative to real-world conditions, in addition to highlighting global best practices and alternative approaches." It also references a group created in September 2011 called the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and highlights the US' role in the group and their joint Open Government Declaration signed by the US and 7 other countries -- with 38 more countries signing in March 2012. Read the rest of the post to find out where the US ranks among the countries of the world in terms of transparency and open government.
Here's the list of studies cited by OMBwatch:
- audit of FOIA laws in 105 countries and the European Union by the Associated Press (AP)
- Global Right to Information Rating released by Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy
- Quality of Official Development Assistance report, published Nov. 14 by the Brookings Institution and the Center for Global Development
- "The Money Trail: Ranking Donor Transparency in Foreign Aid" by Anirban Ghosh and Homi Kharas, published in the November issue of the journal World Development (available to subscribers only :-( )
- Aid Transparency Index 2011 by the organization Publish What You Fund
OMB Watch "exists to increase government transparency and accountability; to ensure sound, equitable regulatory and budgetary processes and policies; and to protect and promote active citizen participation in our democracy." They have been around form more than 25 years and are an excellent source for information about government openness and transparency and information policy. Their redesigned web site has a page listing their RSS feeds including one on Government Openness.
They also have a blog, The Fine Print.
Last month we posted about OMB Watch's survey to choose 5 (and only 5) favorite questions on government openness and transparency for congressional and presidential candidates. Last week, OMBWatch released their report (PDF) of the survey. Given the way things have been going over the last 30 years -- but especially over the last 8 years of the imperial presidency! -- it's no wonder that those surveyed feel that presidents should be more accountable, the public should have increased access to administrative information from both the legislative and executive branches (especially health, safety, and environmental information), and that those within the government should have increased legal protections when they report on government wrong-doing.
I think PublicMarkup's first effort at drafting openness legislation -- the Transparency in Government Act 2008 -- jibes perfectly with this effort.
Five questions to ask the presidential candidates to gauge where the candidates fall on the openness-secrecy spectrum:
- Manipulation of Facts: "Do you support disclosure of all communications between the White House (including the Office of Management and Budget and other executive offices) and agencies regarding administrative decision-making and information disclosure?"
- Executive Privilege: "What do you believe are the appropriate limits of executive privilege in the disclosure of information to Congress and the public?"
- Whistleblowers: "In order to strengthen accountability against corporate crimes, would you support pending legislation that expands whistleblower protection rights to private sector workers who report violations of any federal public health and safety laws?"
- Presidential Records: "Do you commit to reversing Executive Order 13233 to restore public access to presidential records after twelve years?"
- Health, Safety & Environment: "Given the importance of health and safety information, how would you ensure that the public has easy access to understandable information about the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the products they use?"
Here's a reminder (first posted by Susanna last week!) to take the OMB Watch survey to choose your 5 (and only 5) favorite questions on government openness and transparency for congressional and presidential candidates!
OMB Watch is a nonprofit government watchdog organization whose mission is to promote open government, accountability and citizen participation.