Monday, November 09, 2015

State Integrity Investigation ranks each state for transparency and accountability in 13 categories

The Center for Public Integrity has released its 2015 State Integrity Investigation that ranks each state for transparency and accountability. States were given a letter grade in each of 13 categories, and an overall grade. No state scored higher than a C overall, with Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wyoming getting Fs. (USA Today map)

It's important to note that in some cases, the ratings may be based too much on exceptions to the rules. For example, Kentucky got an F on public access to information, though it has a strong open-records law. The report cites exceptions such as legislative communications, the governor’s schedule, the court system and a state agency’s recalcitrance on fatal child-abuse cases. But the court system voluntarily obeys the law, and a judge has fined the agency for its recalcitrance; it has appealed. "Such examples illustrate why the report should only be the beginning of local reporting about these issues," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and publisher of The Rural Blog.

"When first conducted in 2011-2012, the State Integrity Investigation was an unprecedented look at the systems that state governments use to prevent corruption and expose it when it does occur," Nicholas Kusnetz reports for The Center for Public Integrity. "Unlike many other examinations of the issue, the project does not attempt to measure corruption itself. The 2015 grades are based on 245 questions that ask about key indicators of transparency and accountability, looking not only at what the laws say but also how well they’re enforced or implemented."

"The 'indicators' are divided into 13 categories: public access to information, political financing, electoral oversight, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, state budget processes, state civil service management, procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, state pension fund management and ethics enforcement agencies."

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