When most people think about the benefits of financial transparency-the timely, meaningful, and reliable disclosure of government budget and spending information-they tend to think of the intangibles: educating the public, knowledgably engaging their elected officials, and so on. But a growing body of evidence is beginning to show that transparency has a much more concrete benefit: saving money.
As a result of the Texas Comptroller’s efforts to post detailed spending information online as well as conducting a top-to-bottom review of her agency’s expenses, the Comptroller’s transparency efforts have “saved taxpayers a projected $10 million” over the last few years. A pretty good return on investment considering the initial cost for Texas’ spending website, Where the Money Goes, was only $310,000.
Transparency’s money-saving ability extends beyond just that example though-state and local governments have also been able to see big savings from TexasSmartBuy, an online ordering system that leverages the state’s purchasing power to boost competitiveness among vendors and cut costs. In the short time that TexasSmartBuy has been up and running, Texas’ state and local governments, as well as the taxpayers who support them, have seen “over $50 million in annually reoccurring savings.”
And there are numerous other “success stories” are out there detailing how governments in Texas are benefitting financially from their transparency efforts, be it by reducing open records requests, saving on printing, or other ways. So the next time you think about how transparency may benefit you, just think about all the money you could be saving.
– Katy HawkinsIntern, Center for Fiscal Policy