Hello, we live in the 21st century! I can track my FedEx package in a second. Pay my bills online. I can tweet about my washroom dumps and the whole world will share the experience with me instantaneously. Hell, I could also post my sh** on youtube and update my facebook account from my iphone. I can connect to people from all over the world in a blink of an eye. But I cannot find out where and how my tax money is being spent. I would like to be able to track every single cent of my government’s budget. I would like to be able to see and analyze data on the salaries being paid to public servants and the amounts given by the government to various contractors. I would like to have access to information on goods and services used by ministries. Everything: from reimbursed Tim Horton’s coffee up to the exact cost of the 2009 automobile industry bailout. As an honest taxpayer I expect certain service for my work. Most Canadians go to work every day for almost half of the year just to pay taxes. We give almost half of our work hours to the government for certain services. I would like to be able to overview the use of our hard earned money.
In the age of information technologies it is realistic to expect that full government transparency is possible. There is technology. There are people capable of building such a system. But there is no motivation at the highest level. Suddenly all the sloppiness, laziness, misspending would be clearly visible.
Let’s say hypothetically that there is or there will be, funding and motivation to create a system that would make all layers of government transparent. What would be the cost? If Province of Ontario (mis)spent over a billion dollars on eHealth contracts, imagine how much would something that is of similar, or possibly higher complexity, cost. I don’t even dare to think of the cost, and even less of the results. Just take a look at how much was spent on salaries only in eHealth: Almost two hundred people were paid over $100K a year, and no visible results were produced. I keep asking myself ‘What did these 200 people do besides filling out their reimbursement forms?’.
Such a system would be a good excuse to hire more workers. After all, who is going to type in all the data? Please correct me if I am wrong by saying that the data is already being typed in and processed by numerous accountants. How hard would it be to auto-convert the text and numbers to a different form?
A Government Transparency Project would be good for economy. The project would create thousands of contracting jobs: the fattest one going to the Men and the slimmest one going to some geeks in India who would be given a week to patch a demo.
If this project would ever be completed, we could comfortably sit in our warm homes – and analyze in detail how (and where) our tax money flows. And then what?