What if … Every citizen could track every dollar of federal, state or local government spending, every contract, every real estate deal and every travel expense?
What if … Citizens in every Georgia community could use their local knowledge to track and analyze local expenditures?
What if … National experts could help citizens decipher government accounting and establish benchmarks for every government service?
What if … We could honor every government in Georgia that offered quality services at the best value to taxpayers?
What if … we could expose fraud, waste and abuse at every level of government?
We believe transparency is the first step to accomplishing all of those goals. Georgia has become a leader in that area, but we could do much more.
The Georgia General Assembly passed the Transparency in Government Act in 2008. It calls for the creation of a free, searchable Web site to provide public access to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the Budgetary Compliance Report, the Single Audit Report, salaries and expenses of state employees and board members, consultant and other professional services expenses, the State Budget in Brief, and the last five years of performance audits. The Web site must publish the grant and contract payments made or due to vendors and payments made through all economic and incentive programs. This shall include a list of names of each persons, firms or corporations that has received payments that were in aggregate greater than $20,000 in the previous fiscal year or are projected to be in aggregate larger than $50,000 in the current fiscal year.
The Open Georgia site went live on January 1, 2009.
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Georgia law requires local governments to submit an annual Report of Local Government Finances (RLGF) to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). These reports provide important information, used by state and local government policy-makers to better understand and evaluate local government operations and service delivery strategies. You can view a copy of a survey form that each local government submits to DCA here. The data are submitted to the U.S. Census Bureau for the annual State and Local Government Finance report. Audited financial statements for local governments can be found at the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts.
DCA provides complete data sets for research purposes, and the data are used to publish the annual City and County Fiscal Planning Guides, which provide printable data tables containing average and per capita dollar amounts for various revenue, expenditure and liability categories. For comparative purposes these tables group information for local governments of similar population sizes.
DCA also uses the data collected through the annual RLGF to publish the annual Local Government Finance Highlights. This report provides consolidated overviews and trend data going back three to five years for counties, municipalities and consolidated governments. The Fiscal Planning Guides and the Local Government Finance Highlights reports both list the data categories in the report and an index to all of the governments included in the report.
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Georgia requires each school system to submit to the Georgia Department of Education an annual financial and budget report that lists expenses by fund, revenue source, function, program, object and school. The state also requires this financial and budget data to be reported to members of each school’s school council and the public through the Office of Student Achievement’s report card.
The annual Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finances report is available with other education data on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Federal, State and Local Government page.
Audited financial statements for school systems can be found at the Georgia Department of Audits. From the Report Repository search form select “Education Audit” in the first box and “School Districts – Financial Reports” in the third box.
Salary and Travel Information for employees (including school-level employees) of Local Boards of Education is also provided by the Department of Audits.
The upcoming Georgia Public Policy Foundation Report Card For Parents will provide detailed breakdowns, comparisons and the ability to download school- and system-level education spending data. The chart of accounts is available from the Georgia Department of Education to explain how school spending data is categorized.
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I thank you for what you do. For 15 years you’ve been researching and writing on issues that matter. You take on tough questions, you apply innovative thinking, you push for action, and you do it all without regard to politics.