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February 10, 2022

Government Transparency

Government agencies have an obligation to be as open and honest as possible with citizens about certain services, practices, procedures, laws, and more.
Posted by GovOS Team

While too much transparency can lead to security breaches, people finding loopholes to get around laws and regulations, or distrust in the agency, not enough transparency can make it hard for citizens to put their trust in governments. A lack of transparency can also make it seem as if the government is hiding something.  

What makes things even more complicated is the fact that no one answer solves the issue of how to improve transparency in government that balances both clarity and security. But before diving into the various strategies for how to improve transparency in government, we first need to define what government transparency is and what makes it so important.  

What is Government Transparency?

Government transparency refers to the duty governments have to be clear, accountable, and truthful with citizens about how they are spending their tax dollars, the laws and potential penalties for breaking them, and their operations as a whole. 

Government transparency is typically broken up into three categories: 

  • Proactive discourse 
  • Public record requests 
  • Campaign finance disclosure 

There are a variety of different ways this can be achieved – proactive communication with citizens, town hall meetings, making public meeting documents easily accessible, soliciting citizen feedback, and convenient services offered through digital channels. 

Often when trying to figure out how to improve transparency in government, more of these channels of communication will be opened to citizens. While government transparency is mainly about making pertinent information publicly available, that information should also be easily understood. 

When working on how to improve transparency in government, government officials must realize that citizens typically won’t have the same understanding of the more intricate parts of government that they do. Therefore, when being transparent, government communication must also be comprehensible. Leave the technical jargon out and use layman’s terms. 

Part of government transparency is making civic engagement and government procedures more accessible to citizens so they can engage with local governments more meaningfully.  

What Makes Government Transparency Important?

Government transparency is crucial to maintaining a functioning and free society. Governments exist for many reasons but mainly to serve people, so information on how elected officials conduct themselves, conduct public business, and spend taxpayer money should be readily available and easily understood. Transparency allows citizens to hold governments accountable. Considering its importance, governments should always be working on how to improve transparency in government.  

How an Improved Records Management System Helps Local Government

In addition to opening more lines of communication and making more information available to citizens, making records more easily accessible is another way to improve transparency in government. 

Thanks to the policies established by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), citizens can access a variety of information, but very few take advantage of this ability. Many citizens may not even know where to begin if they want to request information, or they may be frustrated with the current process and feel it’s too slow. 

Regardless, whatever may be deterring citizens from accessing information hurts transparency. The more easily accessible this information is, the better government transparency becomes.  

When trying to figure out how to improve transparency in government, governments should consider improving their records management system, even for information that doesn’t require a FOIA request to be released. Improved records management can make getting court documents, land deeds, and vital information just a few clicks away and make this process far more convenient for citizens.  

Digitizing this process makes it even easier. Rather than driving to city hall and filling out a slew of different forms, citizens can go online to access the information they need from anywhere.

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