I’d like to thank everyone who came out to Create Baltimore 2013 and took part in the government transparency and audit discussion. As individuals, we have Mint.com to track our personal finances and help us make fact based decisions in real time. Why don’t citizens and our leaders have something like mint.com for Baltimore? New York City recognized this need and built their version of a ‘mint.com’ and they call it Checkbook NYC.
|Screen Shot of Checkbook NYC|
Why Care About Audits and Baltimore Data?I’m passionate about audits and transparency in Baltimore for several reasons that you may or may not have seen in the news. Most effective companies or cities that have budgets the size of Baltimore's audit their books regularly. This helps create a management environment of accountability, transparency and data driven leadership decisions. Baltimore hasn’t audited some agencies for decades and some say since Eisenhower was president. Making leadership decisions with this lack of insight is like driving your car blindfolded. We’ve heard some bizarre arguments why this can’t be done, such as there isn’t enough money, when Baltimore has one of the largest audit budgets of its size in the country. We have also been given the reason by Budget Director Andrew Kleine in his 5-23-2013 memo to the City Council that "Most City agencies, boards and commissions do not prepare annual financial statements and lack the expertise to prepare these documents."
The current administration might superficially support transparency with events like the $10,000 City Civic Apps contest or Open Baltimore but the reality is the current administration is throwing Baltimore Sun reporters and activists such as Kim Trueheart out of City Hall for exercising their basic rights to engage in the democratic process. For another indicator of how Baltimore compares with the rest of the country review this example: We were given $9.5M from the federal government to help the homeless. How effectively did we spend it? Who knows? According to HUD and this article from the Baltimore Brew, 100% of the funds didn't have supporting documentation. Baltimore was the worst in the country. The next worst offenders were Buffalo with 6. 6% undocumented and Newark with 8. 5% undocumented.