Success from the session: SMART Government Act an important step toward transparency, accountability
Lawmakers and Colorado residents will be better able to judge the performance of state programs and whether they are accomplishing their goals under a bill signed by Gov. Bill Ritter on Saturday.
The State Measurements for Accountable, Responsive and Transparent (SMART) Government Act – HB 1119 – ties state funding more closely to results, increases transparency and improves public access to budget data.
The Bell believes in fact-based decision-making and that policymakers are most effective when they have a solid understanding of how programs operate, what they are accomplishing and how they compare with one another. Rich Jones, the Bell's director of policy and research, testified in favor of the bill in both the House and Senate. (The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mark Ferrandino and Sen Brandon Shaffer.)
It is also important that Coloradans are aware of public programs, what they are intended to do and whether they are performing as expected. Providing understandable, reliable and easily accessible information to the public so they can draw their own conclusions about government operations is critical to ensuring public involvement and understanding of state government. It is one important way to make state government more transparent and accountable.
"Some of us actually believe the public sector plays a critical role in expanding opportunities, building a prosperous society and protecting our quality of life," said Wade Buchanan, president of the Bell. "We are the ones who need to take the lead in ensuring government is transparent, efficient and accountable.
"For too long, those who do not believe the public sector plays such an important role have used the mantra of ‘waste, fraud and abuse' as a cynical ploy. The difference is that they want to undercut public trust in government so that they can slash public programs and services, while we want to help restore trust and ensure our scarce resources are being used most effectively for the common good."
The SMART Government Act requires principal departments of state government to present lawmakers with a strategic plan, performance-based goals and outcomes related to these goals. An annual performance report summarizing this information will be posted on the state's website.
Standing committees of the General Assembly will hold hearings on these plans and measures, giving the public an opportunity to weigh in on them. This process expands oversight of state operations and increases the opportunity for public input in setting priorities and performance goals.
The act directs the state auditor to conduct performance audits of programs in at least two departments each year, resulting in audits of all departments every nine years. These audits will focus on the integrity of performance measures, the accuracy and validity of reported results and the cost effectiveness of programs in achieving performance-based goals.