Government Transparency: A Step Forward
Governor Deval Patrick launched the MassResults web page to promote transparency and accountability in Massachusetts government. Effectiveness, accountability and openness are Gov. Patrick’s goals. He aims to build a “results-oriented culture” in state government and says, “I encourage you to explore the site, ask questions and tell me what you think. Asking government to articulate what success looks like and be accountable for results is something that every citizen should expect.”
The MassResults web page includes strategic plans and performance reports for each of the governor’s cabinet secretaries, incorporating the agencies and departments the secretaries oversee. The Web page links other transparency tools, as well, including Open Checkbook, Budget Dash Boards, annual financial reports, and others.
[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]MassResults is a step forward in promoting transparency in state government. The project allows the public to review specific objectives of various government programs, which not only promotes citizen engagement, but holds government accountable by providing benchmarks of success.[/quote]
MassResults is a step forward in promoting transparency in state government. The project allows the public to review specific objectives of various government programs, which not only promotes citizen engagement, but holds government accountable by providing benchmarks of success. Knowing that objectives are clearly defined to the public, public officials, in theory, feel more of a personal stake in the outcome of their activities.
Strategic plans inform the public about their government’s priorities. They show which projects are being implemented, how their tax money is spent and what benefits they will get. Performance reports provide annual evaluations of agencies’ work and give the agencies an incentive to improve. The assessment can also inform future decision making. Each strategic plan corresponds to a subsequent performance report, which makes it easier for everyday people to follow the status of an agency’s work. With the strategic plans as a benchmark, citizens can see the progress – or lack of progress— state agencies are making toward achieving their goals.
Secretariats participating in the MassResults program are the Executive Office for Administration and Finance (A&F), the Executive Office of Education (EDU), the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD), the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).
A significant project weakness is that goals listed in the strategic plans do not necessarily align with the performance reports. Some performance reports appear to be selective in what is reported on. The best performance reports should clearly relate back to each goal listed in the strategic plan.
Another weakness, outside of the governor’s control, is that all areas of government do not participate in MassResults. The Massachusetts Judiciary, the legislature, and other constitutional offices don’t participate in the MassResults program. The following table summarizes their official websites, their latest strategic plans (if available), and annual performance reports (if available).
|Departments/agencies||Strategic Plans||Performance Reports|
|the Massachusetts Court System||Strategic Plan||N/A or hard to find|
|the Legislature||N/A or hard to find||N/A or hard to find|
|State Lottery||N/A or hard to find||N/A or hard to find|
|Department of Treasury||Five-Year Capital Investment Plan||Treasury Scorecard|
|Office of the State Auditor||OSA Strategic Plan||2011 Annual Quality Assurance Report|
|Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts||Strategic Plan||N/A or hard to find|
Wenli Fei is a research intern at Pioneer Institute. She studies Mathematics and Political Science at Wellesley College.