Mark Wallace, Campaign Director of The TaxPayers’ Alliance, welcomes the launch in America of a searchable online database of government spending and George Osborne's endorsement of the idea.
A few days ago USAspending.gov went live, allowing anyone to see exactly where the US Federal Government spends Americans’ tax dollars. Every Federal funding transaction is published on the web site, and details of the agencies who agree the spending, the reasons for the transactions and the recipients are all published on an easy to search database.
The idea, welcomed by George Osborne when the Bill establishing the database was passed last year, is one that can only improve the efficiency and accountability of the bodies spending taxpayers’ money. It is an example Britain would do well to follow.
Accountability should be a fundamental principle of the way Government is structured. On principle, if the taxpayer is to be forced to cough up every time they earn, spend, save or invest, the least we should receive in return is the right to see where the money is going.
In practice, scrutiny is a positive force for good in the public sector. Having the watchful eye of the public and the media focussed on public transactions would force officials and politicians to exert themselves more to get a good deal and to do what the public want. If the public sector is to be exempt from the impetus of competition, we need to make sure there are other pressures to encourage high performance, good results and value for money. Public scrutiny is just such a pressure, and it is currently sorely lacking.