State treasurers have a duty to uphold transparency in state government. As the Kentucky treasurer, I take my job as the watchdog for taxpayer money very seriously. I believe it is imperative that state treasurers protect against embezzled, misspent or misappropriated funds.
State treasurers are uniquely positioned to secure an open and transparent government, and therefore preserve the trust of the people.
All government officials should be held accountable to the public. Citizens ought to have a better understanding of where and why our resources are being used. Unfortunately, there are still public officials at the federal and state levels who resist the much-needed increase in government transparency.
President Barack Obama’s Justice Department has taken on a peculiar role in the multi-billion-dollar settlement agreements between the government and private companies as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.
The federal government has been handing out portions of these settlements to handpicked organizations, many of which are partisan groups.
Lawmakers are working to curb the department’s power in spending these funds, but it is clear that there is little to no transparency over how these settlements are managed.
Part of my watchdog responsibility is to make sure the actions taken by the U.S. Justice Department do not occur in our state. I am introducing measures that can help increase transparency in our government.
My office is working on initiatives to bring executive spending online so taxpayers can see where their money goes. As citizen watchdogs, the people of Kentucky will have the ability to take part in guarding their tax dollars and watching the flow of money.
Watching the money is something Kentuckians ought to be able to do. During the recent legislative session, I supported bills in the General Assembly that would require our state-administered retirement systems to explain their costs and expenses. However, entrenched politicians, desperately clinging to secrecy in government, killed these efforts in the state House.
These initiatives are important to ensure Kentucky’s public officials do not take the same path as the U.S. Justice Department. For example, at the state level, it is important to ensure transparency surrounding settlement monies recovered by the attorney general as a result of lawsuits won or settled by the state. By bringing executive spending to the forefront, Kentucky taxpayers will have the ability to see where their money goes in Frankfort.
State treasurers must be proactive in pushing for more transparency surrounding the placement and dissemination of public funds. We play a major role in protecting taxpayers and their trust; we cannot allow transparency to be put on a back burner.
Allison Ball is the 38th Kentucky treasurer.