12:12pm

Thu August 18, 2011
Statehouse News

International Attention on State Website

Gov. Steve Beshear’s nationally recognized e-transparency website, Open Door, is serving as a model not just for other states, but also for international journalists and government leaders. Nineteen media professionals from Africa will meet Thursday with representatives from the Finance and Administration Cabinet to learn about the searchable portal that enables taxpayers to explore how government money is being spent.

The leaders are part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, and this is the second time Open Door has been selected as a stop for program participants. The website, online at www.OpenDoor.ky.gov, was nominated for the program by the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Since its inception in 2009, leaders from 20 countries have come to Kentucky to learn about the website.

“I’m very proud of the honors received by Open Door and of my administration’s efforts to make government more accountable and transparent to the people,” Beshear said. “It is an honor to share our success story with international guests so that they may use Open Door as an example to develop similar programs to keep their citizens informed on valuable government information.”

The 19 professionals are from the broadcast journalism and the electronic media. They include political and economic commentators, bloggers, newscasters, editors and government information officers.

The U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program brings international visitors, selected by U.S. Embassies around the world, to the United States for a three-week educational tour as a part of its premier professional exchange program.

“Open Door is an excellent example of a state program that showcases transparency and effective interaction between government and citizens. Freedom of information is very significant to the international participants,” said Xiao Yin, visitor program manager for the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. “Democracy is an important topic for the program since it is lacking in the home countries of many of these visitors where they are threatened, sometimes even by their own government. They want to learn how to incorporate similar practices demonstrated by Open Door into their own reporting.”

Open Door has been recognized on multiple occasions as a national leader in setting the standard for spending transparency on government expenditures.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy organization, has twice recognized the site as a leader in setting the standard for spending transparency on government expenditures. Its most recent report on the transparency of state spending called Kentucky a “pioneer” that has “taken strides to remain at the head of the pack.”

In a report published on June 2, 2010 by The Center for Study of Responsive Law, a nonprofit organization that researches government and corporate accountability, Kentucky was recognized as a national leader for transparency in state contracts for publishing the full text of state contracts.

In the spring of 2008, Beshear issued an Executive Order establishing the e-Transparency Task Force; a 14-member bipartisan panel charged with providing a more transparent, accountable state government. On Jan. 1, 2009, Kentucky’s Open Door was launched after a concerted, multi-agency effort, led by officials of the Finance and Administration Cabinet.

Since the site was first launched, improvements and enhancements have steadily been made. Visitors can find comprehensive details on state contracts, and up-to-date data on state employee salaries. Users have the option to download expenditure records by fiscal year or by a search that they create. In January 2010, the judicial branch joined the e-transparency website. Open Door currently hosts information from both the executive and judicial branches, and all of Kentucky’s constitutional officers.

“Open Door is a comprehensive, user-friendly way for anyone to track how the Commonwealth is spending valuable tax dollars, which promotes both accountability and efficiency,” said Lori H. Flanery, secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet. “The website itself is a great example of containing government spending as only existing state resources were used to create the award winning site. No new funds were specifically dedicated to develop Open Door.”