By Cowboy State Daily
Transparency in state government is very important, but achieving it can sometimes be difficult, according to state Auditor Kristi Racines.
Racines, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily, said she strongly believes that information on state government spending must be available to the state’s taxpayers.
“We want to know, as taxpayers, where our dollars are going,” she said. “What is our government doing, do we agree with it, do we not. We can’t divine if we agree or not if we don’t have the information.”
However, it can sometimes take a great deal of work to determine whether information held by the state should be public or private, she said.
“It’s never quite as simple as some folks make it,” she said. “The auditor’s office, we put out checks and there’s well over 1 million a year … A lot of those are confidential. The overwhelming majority isn’t. But sorting out everything that’s confidential and isn’t, it’s not clear. Not everything is black and white.”
For instance, while the auditor’s office pays the state’s bills using public money, some expenses are confidential, such as Medicaid payments or Victims’ Assistance payments, she said.
Racines was elected last year to succeed Cynthia Cloud, who did not seek re-election. Cloud’s final months in office were marked by ongoing litigation with a government transparency advocacy group that worked for several years to gain access to the state’s “checkbook,” the list of payments made by the auditor’s office.
Racines released the information about one month after taking office.
“I can’t really speak to what was done before,” she said. “I know a lot of times, public records requests can be intimidating to public employees. There’s often times fear … and sometimes there’s just some misunderstanding there.”