India Uncut

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Google for government

Barack Obama says in a fascinating interview by David Remnick:
What I feel is that the budget process in particular is so undisciplined, and so opaque, that it is very difficult for any senator to know what you’re voting on when it comes to budgetary matters at any given time. You’ve got this big monster bill. And those who control that process are able to slip in and massage and work on whatever they want. So I worked with an unlikely partner, Republican Tom Coburn, to set up a Google for government, that requires all federal spending over twenty-five thousand dollars to be on the Internet. Even making that a more effective database, it can be helpful to the reporters of some of the magazines in this room, and yet it is still not how you would want a budget to work. And it provides enormous opportunities for mischief.
The phrase, "a Google for government," strikes me in that passage. Wouldn't it be nice if all government expenditure in India was online in a neatly documented and easily searchable format, so that we could know exactly how our money is being spent? Of course, the Right to Information Act theoretically gives us access to such information, but would we even know what to ask for, or where to start? Even the Duty to Publish section of the act (which I'd blogged about here) is not going to be implemented in a user-friendly way anytime soon. Until then, our taxes remained unaccounted for, and largely wasted.

Of course, CAG reports can prove to be a useful source of, um, despair, as this excellent old piece by Prem Panicker demonstrates.

(Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Also see: 1, 2.)
amit varma, 5:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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