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The State of Texas: Fostering Transparency for Government Performance

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Transparency

The role of the government has been evolving over the last several years. Gone are the days when agencies simply served as administrative bodies that did little more than set and enforce regulations, collect, process and store information. Citizens now expect better, more convenient services and programs from their federal, state and local entities.

Taking into consideration that the government agency is an organization which operates on a tight budget, there is an impetuous need for effectively managing the allocation and utilization of the available funds. Besides that, another major problem which governments need to face is that their spending is often seen as enigmatic and impenetrable. However, taxpayers have the legitimate right to know how their money is spent, so governments should ultimately be held accountable.

Transparency in government is not a new issue. John Adams, 2nd president of the United States, once wrote:

 “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know.”

Openness at this level provides a much-needed check and balance against corruption and misuse of government assets. Thus, governments are expected to post all financial and public information online in real or nearly real-time and in an organized, searchable and sharable manner.

A best practice example in terms of fostering transparency for government performance is the online platform launched by the State of Texas. The first positive effect of developing this platform came in quickly – duplication of state contracts was discovered and merged, saving the government $4.8 million, and an additional $3.8 million on unexpected improvement opportunities.

Seeing as this solution brought significant benefits and took the administration’s efficiency management to another level, Texas was awarded the GFOA Award for Excellence in 2009. The platform Texas uses is split in 5 major dimensions, which cover the most important topics in government performance.

The first three dimensions provide insight into the financial aspects of government performance, starting with the binomial revenue-spending. The State Revenue dimension is complemented by dimensions of state spending, budget and finance to provide a overview on the financial execution of public resources.

By granting the general public access to financial data, by enabling visualization of revenue and spending KPIs and, furthermore, by providing citizens with carefully selected lookup tools and detailed reports, the State of Texas is set to ensure that it actively promotes the application of transparency as a fundamental criterion for open source government and democratic empowerment.

The fourth dimension covers the main activities of individual agencies and institutions as supervised by the state government. Thus, the central government cannot only constantly evaluate the work of the institutions within its reach, but the public can also gain insight on whether which governmental activities are conducted in their best interest.

Finally, the fifth dimension provides for a more technical approach to performance. It is entitled Open Data Tools and Information and it provides information on the way data is collected, stored and shared for wider access. Furthermore, it allows responsive citizens to make their own assessment of government performance by enabling access to data sets, and engaging them to use dashboards for data visualization.

Each of the above-mentioned domains provide a series of carefully selected KPIs for measuring the performance in that field:

Dimension 1: State Revenue:

% Tax collected on time

$ Tax collected

$ Road user charge collected

$ Household income

% Uncollected penalties


Dimension 2: State Spending

$ Managed expenditure (ME)

% National public spending expenditure on services

% Purchasing share of public sector spending

$ Net expenditure per head of population

$ Net spending per capita on sport, recreation and entertainment activities


Dimension 3: Budget and Finance

# Sacrifice ratio

# Terms of trade

% Fixed asset financing

# Fixed asset turnover

$ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita


Dimension 4: Local Government

% Unemployment rate

# Recruit to hire ratio for job placements

# Pest control exterminations performed

% Hotel occupancy

# Recycled waste


Dimension 5: Open Data Tools and Information

# Node paging hierarchy – scan rate

% Data centre availability

# Disk service time

% IT asset efficiency

% Data centre infrastructure efficiency (DCIE)


For an even more detailed view on performance, the platform additionally generates dashboards which organize and present KPI information in a way that is easy to read and use, as seen in the following example:

Transparency

Besides providing dashboards with live information on the transactional level, the platform can also generate custom reports and present extensive data sets.

All the aforementioned aspects lead to the conclusion that technology-enabled transparency does not only improve the performance of government, but also re-establishes trust in the public sector. As much as digital autonomy is imperative in order to guarantee freedom of expression, so is governmental transparency a vital requirement for a stable and functional democracy.

Transparency – both for public and private organizations!

If you like how the State of Texas has achieved greater levels of efficiency & effectiveness regarding their use of monetary resources, all the while maintaining a high degree of public trust and would like to better understand how they did it, The KPI Institute has just the tool you need.

Our Performance Transparency Index allows worldwide organizations to assess their level of transparency to the general public. An organization which is transparent about all their undergone activities has a lot of advantages, from a positive public image, respect, to better staff engagement and a superior customer service. Furthermore, if you wish to learn more about the KPIs used to measure the 5 dimensions used by Texas’ administration, you can find all the necessary information in our world-class KPI repository, smartKPIs.kpiinstitute.org.

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