| June 29, 2011

New website empowers Oklahomans to hold government accountable

OCPA recently unveiled a new transparency website, The site allows anyone to search, in a very user-friendly format, financial data for state government. The data for the website comes from the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, but the site uses innovative business-intelligence software called QlikView which allows for fast navigation through the data.

As a former budget analyst for the Office of State Finance, and a former fiscal and research analyst for the House of Representatives, I have significant experience analyzing state spending. In my experience, I haven’t seen anything that compares to In years past, scrutiny of Oklahoma government spending largely has been reserved for a few powerful legislators, staffers, and the occasional lucky journalist who stumbles upon a confidential tip. changes all that. As the name implies, it gives citizens the ability to search the accounts—and thus empowers citizens to bring accountability to government.

I encourage everyone to go to this new site. Here are just some of the alarming data you will find:

Some of the compensation in higher education is excessive. In FY-2010, Oklahoma colleges and universities spent nearly $336 million to pay the salaries of approximately 2,086 faculty and staff members who earn more than $100,000 per year. Also, higher education spent $109 million more on salaries in FY-2010, a “revenue shortfall year,” than was spent on salaries in FY-2008.

Colleges and universities have spent more than $188 million on travel over the last three fiscal years. During FY-2010, a “revenue shortfall year” for the state, colleges and universities only reduced travel expenditures by 10.4 percent from the prior year, reducing total travel costs from $64.9 million in FY-2009 to $58.2 million in FY-2010.

Dozens of government employees, including politicians, have government pensions paying them more than $100,000 a year. This was reported Sunday in The Oklahoman by Paul Monies. You will also find that approximately 851 government employees have pensions paying them more than $50,000 a year.

The state Health Department paid Planned Parenthood $424,677 in FY-2010, and $360,381 so far in FY-2011.

State employees have received almost $164 million in “excess benefit allowance” payments over the last three fiscal years. These payments are in addition to wages, and are paid to an employee when their total insurance benefits are less than the state benefit formula, thus allowing them to take the excess as a cash payment in their total paycheck.

Regrettably, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much work to be done, so please visit and help us hold government accountable.

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