Florida Tech Accountability Institute Rates States in Spending Transparency

Nine States Earn an ‘F’

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Some state governments are much better than others at providing transparency in access to their spending data, according to new results from the Activity-Based Total Accountability (ABTA) Institute at Florida Institute of Technology. The institute was founded in 2008 with a Florida Department of Education grant that received additional funding in 2011 with a U.S. Small Business Administration grant. The ABTA Institute mission is to provide and promote simplified accountability measures and cost/performance comparisons for effective decision making by government leaders.

Based on website analyses, all 50 states earn A to F grades on the institute’s report card at http://abta.fit.edu/report_card. They range from the best—A-minus grade states of Indiana, New Jersey and Utah, to nine states with a grade of “F,” with states earning B, C and D grades in between. Florida is rated B-plus, ranking fourth out of 50.

“This effort creates transparency in government spending to serve the taxpayer,” says ABTA Institute Director Deborah Sater Carstens, an associate professor of information systems in the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business. She adds, “Accountability in government is achieved only when total costs are considered in light of all activities performed by agencies. To successfully track total costs requires a standard system of measurement.”

The first ABTA Institute effort drew its data from the spending documents of all 50 states for a variety of departments and sectors. The data resulted in ABTA tables, which include county-level tables for many of the counties in each state. When available, fixed capital outlays, full time equivalent and unit costs are listed. Also available are expenditure reports; indicator reports, which offer a detailed look at performance and benchmarking statistics; and tables of local government expenditures that show spending by county, city and organization. The links to these reports and tables are at: http://abta.fit.edu/data.

The ABTA Institute used its most recent SBA grant, $100,000 in 2011, to perform a state report card analysis and to fund training videos, which can be viewed on the ABTA website. The recent effort involved an analysis using a checklist key to identify the transparency of different states as well as the data presented from a usability standpoint. This resulted in assigning points for the supportability and navigation of each state’s online access. Grading was based on a grade scale of 0 to a maximum of 100 points.

The videos explain what ABTA is, how ABTA unit costs are developed and how to use ABTA to transform government. Video trainer Gary Van Landingham said, “ABTA has the potential to help citizens and their governments dramatically improve the efficiency of public services, and I encourage them to use the resources on the website to begin this process.”

The ABTA Institute is a resource of the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business at Florida Tech. For more information, contact Carstens at Carstens@fit.edu.

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