Top 10 facts about local government transparency in Illinois
One of the best protections against government corruption is transparency. And in today’s digital age, one of the easiest ways for government to be open and accountable is through posting public documents on the Internet. Illinois needs to strengthen online transparency standards to fight government corruption and wasteful spending practices, especially given its troubled history...
One of the best protections against government corruption is transparency. And in today’s digital age, one of the easiest ways for government to be open and accountable is through posting public documents on the Internet.
Illinois needs to strengthen online transparency standards to fight government corruption and wasteful spending practices, especially given its troubled history of both.
1) Illinois is notorious for government corruption
- With 1,531 convictions, the Northern District of Illinois, which covers Chicago, had the most public corruption convictions of any district nationwide between 1976 and 2010
- Dixon, Ill., Comptroller Rita Crundwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison in February 2013 for stealing more than $53 million from taxpayers
2) There’s a lack of local government transparency statewide
- 20 Illinois counties don’t have websites
- 253 of the 339 local governments graded by the Illinois Policy Institute failed the Illinois Policy Institute’s 10-Point Transparency Checklist, which measures how well governments disclose important information regarding their activities and expenditures
The Illinois Policy Institute’s 10-Point Transparency Checklist
- Contact information
- Public meetings
- Public records
3) Current state and local government transparency laws are very weak
- Local governments are only required to post limited information under the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act in addition to their Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, or CAFRs – excluding salaries, expenditures and other vital financial information
- The Illinois Attorney General’s office fails to police local governments adequately
4) Transparency helps fight public corruption and wasteful government spending
- According to fraud experts, the perception of being detected is one of the strongest deterrents to fraud
- Online transparency proactively discourages public employees and elected officials from engaging in corruption and wasteful government spending
5) Government transparency is overwhelmingly popular
- 85 percent of the public believes it is important for local governments’ financial management information to be available, according to a 2010 survey by the Association of Government Accountants
Why it matters to you
- Illinois residents face the second-highest property tax rate in the country, in addition to many other taxes. Taxpayers deserve to know how those dollars are being spent.
- Every citizen deserves open government. Barriers to public participation have locked out citizens from participating in, or even knowing about, many important policy decisions.
- Without strengthened statewide transparency standards, there is little incentive for local government agencies to proactively provide information to their citizens.
- Online transparency is an important tool for citizens, media and government watchdogs to use to help expose and ultimately prevent public corruption from occurring.
Illinois does not need to be the national headquarters for political corruption. This state can be a national leader when it comes to good government transparency and accountability reforms at the state and local level.
The Illinois General Assembly needs to enact comprehensive online transparency standards for local governments, and empower the Illinois Attorney General’s office to withhold state tax dollars until transparency standards are met.