Transparency for PA Stimulus Money?

State Senator Mike Brubaker has a proposal to create greater oversight over how Pennsylvania spends its transparency money (HT: John Micek at Capitol Ideas).  The proposal has two components – an oversight commission consisting of four cabinet members, four legislative appointees, and citizen; and a website for information on how the stimulus money is being spent.  Congressman (and possible gubernatorial candidate) Jim Gerlach made similar recommendations last week, though the oversight board would be more citizen driven.

Personally, I put little faith in any oversight of spending by the people doing the spending – or even consisting of folks appointed by those doing the spending.  Pennsylvania’s history with commissions – e.g. the Turnpike Commission, the Gaming Control Board, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the Commonwealth Financing Authority, and all the local government authorities running hotels, airports, and golf courses – isn’t very inspiring.

However, giving the public oversight by putting all the stimulus spending online is critical.  A “neutral, fact-based web site” with “at least basic information about the federal stimulus” is not sufficient.  The website needs to be comprehensive, and should track every dollar spent – basically putting the checkbook register online.

While Micek makes a crack about this website appealing to “people with entirely too much time” on their hand, we only need a few watchdogs.  With full transparency, citizen activists, bloggers, and even people who get paid for this type of thing – including Micek and myself – will do more to ensure accountability in government spending than any oversight commission.