Here’s an editorial for the people who work in Oregon government. They can be excused for not getting as wound up about government transparency as journalists or other members of the public do.
But Oregon governments, from the governor’s office down to library boards, are supposed to be transparent. They are in a number of ways. But they don’t always put their heart into it. Sometimes they don’t follow the law. So when one part of Oregon government calls out another part of Oregon government for not being transparent, we pay attention.
The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office recently released a follow-up to an audit it did in 2019. That original report encouraged the state — and in particular the state’s Department of Administrative Services, or DAS — to enhance the transparency in the state’s budget.
If it’s not easy to find out where the state gets its money or how it spends it, that’s a problem.
The department did implement a number of recommended changes since that 2019 audit. It worked with the Legislature to allow additional money to beef up the state’s transparency website. And it hired a consultant to compare what Oregon does against some of the best practices of other states. That’s good.
But DAS is not monitoring a practice of state agencies to use non-budgeted positions. And it’s not using its position on the Transparency Oregon Advisory Commission to encourage the commission meet regularly and release transparency reports required by law in a timely manner, the report said.
For instance, there’s a requirement in state law that the commission shall report to the Legislature on completed improvements to the transparency website and ways to improve it further by Feb. 15 of each odd-numbered year. The Legislative Fiscal Office missed that deadline in 2019. It apparently has missed it again this year. At least, we couldn’t find it on the office’s website.
EO Media Group emailed last week the two members of the Legislative Fiscal Office assigned to the commission to ask what was going on. No response.
The impact of the pandemic on state staff could have certainly been a reason. There could be other parts of a heavy workload that they chose to prioritize. It would be nice, though, if they were transparent about why they aren’t filling a transparency obligation required by state law.
One other thing struck us about the way the Department of Administrative Services — which it is important to note is overseen by Gov. Kate Brown — responded to the audit. DAS chose to respond to some of the audit recommendations with what state auditors called “extraneous responses.” DAS declined to even disagree or agree with some of the audit recommendations.
Do some employees at DAS not have a commitment to transparency in their heart? Is Gov. Brown going to insist they act like they do?