Prof. Dr. Jörn von Lucke wrote an interesting article concerning the current discussion about Greece:
Grants for Greece – Where does our money flow?
Author: Professor Dr. Jörn von Lucke
In times of a global financial and economic crisis, the U.S. State of Texas might be a role model. Susan Combs, Comptroller of the State of Texas, is a pioneer for more transparent budgets. Since 2007, the portal “Cash Drill: Transparency at Work” has enabled all citizens and the press to evaluate the state budget of Texas and to analyze it according to various criteria (Cash Drill: https://www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/expendlist/cashdrill.php). Various search tools are available under the “Where the Money Goes” banner. They help to create spending overviews by agency, by category, by vendors and by purchasing items. Additionally, comparisons of previous expenditures are possible with the planned budget of an agency. Such an evaluation is made possible through a data warehouse that contains these information accessible in multiple languages. Citizens also have the opportunity to communicate their experiences, impressions and to give tips for suspected corruption directly.
In recent weeks, Greece was hit dramatically by the financial crisis. Corruption in politics and administration, mismanagement, fraud, tax evasion, and falsification of official statistics have contributed to the downgrading of Greek government bonds to a “junk level.” By the end of 2012, the Hellenic Republic is expected to need more than 120 billion Euros in financial assistance. To ensure the stability of the Euro, Germany will have to play a significant part. A guarantee of the KfW Bankengruppe (“Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau”) appears to all parties as useful and the only option – which is right. As a taxpayer, we may regret this. Nevertheless, we should seize the hour. In times of crisis, the window of opportunity, in which a substantial change from all sides might be accepted and sustainably implemented, is small; this is nearly impossible in prosperous times.
If German tax money is used for guarantees in Greece, the German taxpayer should also be able to know where the money goes. A Greek Cash Drill portal could inform us and especially the Greek people how politics and public administration are currently dealing with the existing resources and tax money. Information on fraud, corruption and nepotism resulting from the common review of this fully transparent budget, could be used by authorities. The Greek press and the Greek population might be hold accountable for exactly this task. Just in the spirit of crowd sourcing, this all depends on the knowledge and participation of the masses. Technically, such a portal, as the example shows in Texas, would be quite quickly implementable in several languages. In terms of open government such a mandatory requirement for a financial aid package would fit in the new public management strategy of the Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou. Now it is up to the negotiators, whether they can claim a genuine and transparent budget for a stable currency, or if they fail.
Admittedly, our eyes should not only wander to Greece. The financial crisis has also reached Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy. Here too, we have to ask the question, how far an open and transparent budget could help to win back trust and confidence in banks, business, politics and administration. Even in Germany, we should no longer close ourselves to this discussion. The federal government, the states government, cities and municipalities are equally called to start the action. Let’s go!