Government transparency has been the focus of many news stories as of late. In this modern age of sophisticated technology, social media platforms and watchdog reporters, it is now easier than ever to keep up with the inner workings of government.
Transparency is the key to having an administration that is supported and trusted by the people it serves. At its core, transparency is important because it holds government accountable for their actions. But accountability only works if citizens are on the other side taking a look at the information provided and responding.
In April the Indiana Transparency Portal (ITP), hosted by my office, was ranked No. 1 in the nation by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. This Web site is dedicated solely to sharing data with the public. Government employees’ salaries, state agency expenditures and detailed budget information are all readily available. Last week, I held a press conference highlighting the addition of Indiana’s $13 billion in fixed assets to the ITP.
In relation to the ITP, fixed assets are assets that are not consumed or sold during the normal course of business, such as land, buildings, equipment, machinery, vehicles and leasehold improvements with a life expectancy of more than one year. This new information shows the cost to put an asset into operation, or the purchase price, but does not reflect its market value.
Fixed assets capitalized at more than $500 are now on the ITP, currently numbering 221,808 individual assets, and will be updated monthly. As of Sept. 9, Indiana owns 4,212 buildings, 10,925 vehicles, 67,363 computers and accessories and 39 police dogs, which will be added next month. To access the ITP, persons may visit www.in.gov/itp.
Continuing to improve the portal will help give Hoosiers a better idea of what their government is doing for them. By taking a look at the items purchased by an agency, it is easier to get an idea of what day-to-day operations look like and what equipment is necessary to perform their assigned functions.
Over my years of public service, I have consistently looked for ways to increase government transparency. While serving as the auditor of Vanderburgh County, who is the county council secretary, I posted meeting minutes online for the first time. As the Vanderburgh County commissioner, I had our meetings televised so citizens could follow county issues in real time. As a state representative, I advocated for the legislation that established the portal and now, as auditor, I am charged with maintaining and improving it.
One significant way the public has gained access to government is through the live-streaming of committee meetings and session days. The Legislature does a great job of keeping Hoosiers in the loop by posting meeting times and links to watch them live as well as streaming session days over the Internet. This is a practice that I hope to see expanded to many more areas of government.
My goals for the auditor’s office center on increasing the transparency of Indiana’s financial information in order to help Hoosiers understand where their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent and improving communication between the state and local entities. The purpose of Indiana’s government is to serve Hoosiers, and I intend to do everything in my power to make that service excellent.
Appointed in 2014 as Indiana’s 56th state auditor, Suzanne Crouch serves as Indiana’s chief financial officer. Prior to this post, Crouch served eight years as the District 78 state representative.