July 30, 2008
Kenneth M. Braun
MIDLAND — Answering for three state departments that
appeared to violate the Michigan Constitution by overspending their budgets in
2006, the Office of the Governor has declined a request that these departments
regularly release detailed expenditure reports to the public. The
request was made in writing in May by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,
which asked the departments of State Police, Corrections and Human Services to
replicate the level of spending transparency now provided by the Michigan
Department of State.
The MDOS has been voluntarily producing
detailed quarterly expenditure reports on its Web site since last spring,
approached by the Mackinac Center as part of the Center’s ongoing "Show
Michigan the Money Project." The reports from the MDOS detail the names of
vendors receiving payments, the amounts paid and the general category of service
or product purchased — including expenses reimbursed to departmental employees
and the names of those employees.
"This was a very reasonable request," noted Kenneth M.
Braun, director of the Show Michigan the Money Project. "We merely wanted these
other departments to do what the Secretary of State has already proven is
possible. If the department in charge of everything from license plates to free
and fair elections can do it, then why can’t the rest?"
The Office of the Governor responded with a letter
stating that the executive branch would "not be participating" in the Center’s
effort because state government "expenditure information" is already online at
the state’s "accountability
site." However, the information on that Web site falls far short of what the
"This so-called ‘accountability’ site is devoid of
spending details and provides a trivial degree of transparency," responded
Braun. "The governor told us to be happy with half a page of general information
per department, yet we already have one department providing more than 50 pages
of spending details."
As an example, Braun points out that the single
page for the Department of Human Services on the state’s accountability site
will only show that more than $5 million was spent for the "travel" category
through the month of June. By comparison, the Department of State’s most recent
report has nine pages dedicated to reporting the names and exact travel
reimbursement amounts paid to department employees. A similar disparity between
the reporting standard of the Department of State and that of every other
department of state government occurs when comparing reported amounts paid to
vendors for supplies, services and more.
The letter from the Office of the Governor explains
the omission of expense account data, saying that its Web site "does not go to
the level of detail to provide individual employee names and expenses and
salaries, as this level of detail provides little value to the taxpayer."
"That’s an unfortunate response to a reasonable and
achievable request for greater government openness," concluded Braun. "I hope
they realize this and reconsider."
Copies of the letter from the governor’s office and
all other correspondence regarding this request have been posted at the Mackinac Center’s MichiganTransparency.org Web site.