By VERONIQUE DERUGY and EILEEN NORCROSS
President Barack Obama has promised a full accounting online of where his $787 stimulus package is spent and to expose to public ridicule anyone caught wasting taxpayer money. At a White House news conference in March, the president put it this way: “If we see money being misspent, we’re going to put a stop to it, and we will call it out and we will publicize it.” Unfortunately, the president’s deeds don’t match his words.
True transparency requires putting specific details of every government expenditure online, where citizens can review them and spot wasteful spending. Several states are already doing just that and finding that citizens and taxpayer groups make great watchdogs.
In Missouri last August, the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU), discovered more than $2.4 million spent for questionable purposes over the past eight years, including purchases from bakeries, beauty salons and women’s lingerie stores.
Thanks to NTU and Missouri’s willingness to put its expenses out for public review, we know that state officials spent $15,482.57 at Ann’s Bra Shop in St. Louis (expenses listed as “professional services” and “clothing supplies”). Government employees also spent more than $1.6 million at coffee shops, $387,210.14 at framing stores, $278,053.46 at florists and nurseries, and $70,849.02 at bakeries. Other dubious expenditures included $936.75 spent at The Corsage Shop in New Madrid, Mo., and $3,010 at the Westside Barber Shop (the disclosure forms didn’t indicate which of the several in the state).
After receiving thousands of letters from unhappy state residents, Republican Gov. Matt Blunt asked the state’s Office of Administration in August to review the expenditures. “This is exactly what we expected and envisioned when we created the MAP [Missouri Accountability Portal],” Mr. Blunt said in a statement. “Transparency and openness help root out wasteful spending and we welcome this scrutiny.”
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