The Detroit News today writes about a possible scandal regarding building construction and land purchases by Detroit Public Schools. The district paid more than $156.2 million for services it may have obtained for $15 million, according to The News. It underscores the importance of transparency.

The Mackinac Center has been asking school districts, municipalities and legislators to put their checkbook registers online, but there are other options for making government more transparent. Putting bid documents online, including requests for proposals, correspondence, first bids, school board minutes and resolutions, and previous contracts, can help identify malfeasance in contracting.

With proper systems in place to ensure good deals, Detroit and other districts should not be afraid of privatizing buildings. The Mackinac Center has highlighted ways for districts to save money through private-sector involvement in designing, constructing and financing school infrastructure.

With regards to transparency in contracting, a letter received today from the Detroit Public Schools rejected the Mackinac Center’s Freedom of Information Act request for cost comparisons of the district’s new custodial service contract. This is basic information that districts should consider prior to signing a contract but, according to DPS, “there are no documents responsive to your request.”