EDITORIAL: OU needs to adopt online open-record access
Our View: OU should follow the state’s example with measures to increase transparency.
Two bills approved by Oklahoma’s House Government Modernization Committee on Thursday would greatly increase the transparency of the state government and make it easier for citizens to be informed and active.
We hope the legislature adopts these measures quickly — and when they do, OU should follow in those footsteps.
- Yes 80%
- No 20%
5 total votes.
What’s new: Oklahoma’s House Government Modernization Committee passed two bills, HB 2379 and HB 2857, that will increase the transparency of the state government. The former will make it easier to request open records, and the former will create a database for information about state debt.
What’s next: The bills will go to the House floor for debate. If it passes, it will then head to the Senate for consideration.
The two bills would create openrecords.ok.gov and checkbook.ok.gov, web pages that would increase public access to government information. The former would streamline the Open Records process, by which citizens can request access to public documents, by funneling the requests through one online form and making the requested documents digitally available.
The latter would collect all the information about state debt, bonds, the debt repayment schedule, higher-education master lease agreements and historical debt data in one easy-to-access database.
As we’ve mentioned before, it can be difficult and confusing for private citizens to access this important information.
Open Records requests require one to know what kinds of records exist and which might hold the desired information. Documents related to debt and bonds are currently scattered and difficult to locate.
With these two new pages, citizens will have powerful tools to help themselves stay informed about what the state government is doing.
An informed populace makes more effective voters, and it’s the responsibility of all Oklahomans to hold their government accountable for its actions — especially where money is involved.
But the state isn’t the only entity that goes into debt, passes bond measures and deals with public documents. OU should set up similar resources to help the campus community stay up to date on what the university is doing and how it’s spending money.
The website could even go further than the state’s proposed one, offering detailed information about the university budget, how tuition money is spent and other financial issues important to the institution.
This information already must exist on a document of some kind, so it could be as simple as collecting and posting these documents in one place — if OU doesn’t have the resources or manpower to hand-gather the information and represent it in the most comprehensible form.
This would not only increase transparency considerably — and maybe even get more Sooners interested in what the school is doing — but it would greatly reduce the work load of OU’s Open Records Office.
By posting the requested documents online, the office could reduce the number of documents that must be supplied multiple times to multiple requestors.
And by filing and filling the requests online, OU could cut down on the resources needed and the impact on the environment.
We applaud the state’s efforts to increase transparency and support freedom of information, and we’re hopeful that we’ll see more such efforts in the future — from Oklahoma and OU.