Monday, May 5, 2014

Improve Transparency at DWSD

There are themes expressed in this blog concerning reform at DWSD that bear repeating.  One of those is transparency.  City political leaders and DWSD managers have resisted transparency for 50 years.  Some of those leaders and managers just don’t think the public has a right to know what they’re doing.  

Others fear the consequences of having their incompetence and/or corruption seen by the public, consequences like being sacked or sent to prison.

The most advanced technology for accountability in large municipal operations like DWSD is the Checkbook NYC 2.0 system developed in New York under former comptroller John Liu.

I wrote on February 2, 2014, “Checkbook 2.0 is a readily adaptable accounting system in which an institution’s financial transactions are disclosed on a public website as they happen.”

“Checkbook 2.0 vacuums up, correlates and displays an institution’s revenues, expenses, budgets, payroll, projects, contracts, subcontracts and such.”

The principle is that every nickel received and every nickel spent by a city or agency can be seen on a public website updated several times a week.

“Checkbook runs in a standard LAMP-stack environment: Apache HTTPD and Apache Solr, MySQL and PostgreSQL. Checkbook is built on top of Drupal, but you do not need to install Drupal first, as Checkbook's own source code includes the appropriate version of Drupal.”

“Checkbook NYC's installation and data management procedures were originally designed around the needs of New York City. Our goal is to make Checkbook portable to other jurisdictions; the installation and data import procedures are probably the areas that most need improvement to achieve that goal. (The code itself is production-ready, as New York City runs a live instance.) We welcome early-adopter feedback to help make these improvements.”

“Currently, 17 of America’s 30 most populous cities provide online databases of government expenditures with ‘checkbook-level’ detail.”

CALPIRG Education Fund gives Chicago a rating for transparency equal to New York’s.  Detroit ranks fourth from the bottom.

If the City of Detroit won’t import Checkbook 2.0, DWSD should do so independently and soon.

1 comment:

  1. I can't agree more with what you have said "Some of those leaders and managers just don’t think the public has a right to know what they’re doing".

    This is also what is happening in the state I live in - Sabah, Malaysia. I have written letters to Public Works Department, Department of Environment, the Minister of Infrastructure, the National Audit Department and to politicians to no avail.

    The sewerage contractor has done a shoddy job and the defect liability period will be over in January 2015 and every complaint I have made has fallen on deaf ears.

    Any ideas from you and/or your readers will be welcome.
    Luqman Michel