Progress: U.S. Aid Agencies Increase Transparency

 An annual index that grades international aid organizations and agencies based on transparency was published Oct. 1. Publish What You Fund’s 2012 Aid Transparency Index and U.S. Report Card compares several U.S. agencies that provide foreign aid. All of the U.S. agencies improved their scores, many considerably from last year. However, the agencies vary widely in their performance, and overall, the U.S. lags other major foreign aid donors.

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Long Overdue Whistleblower Protections Finally Near?

While the vast majority of public servants are competent and well-intentioned, problems can crop up in government (as in any large organization). To address those problems, we need strong transparency and oversight, including the courage of public servants themselves to step forward and blow the whistle. But currently, federal employees with knowledge of misconduct are discouraged from reporting it due to a lack of protections and fear of retaliation, including being fired. A whistleblower protection bill that would change this could be up for a vote in the House and Senate later today or tomorrow: the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act‎ (WPEA, S. 743).

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New Freedom of Information Guidance Advances Openness

 New guidance issued Friday by the Department of Justice (DOJ) will help to ensure that a little-known part of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will not be inappropriately used to shield agency activities from public scrutiny.

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New Report Reviews Obama Administration Progress on Open Government

The 2012 Secrecy Report, released today by OpenTheGovernment.org, shows that the Obama administration has enacted a number of constructive transparency measures.  The  administration has made important strides toward a more open and accountable government during the past four years.

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Raising the Bar for Transparency and Customer Service

Yesterday, the House passed the Government Customer Service Improvement Act, H.R. 538, by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX). The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish standards and performance measures for the customer service that federal agencies provide to the public. Federal agencies' customer service performance ratings would be reported publicly, and each agency would be required to collect and publish feedback from citizen customers. This would advance government openness and could improve government performance.

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Law that Legalized Warrantless Wiretapping Up for Reauthorization Today

The FISA Amendments Act, the 2008 law that legalized the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, is up for reauthorization on the House floor, with a vote scheduled for later today. The law authorizes the government to get permission from a special, secret court to investigate international communications of American citizens, without specifying suspicion of wrongdoing. 

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Pulling Shell Corporations Out of the Shadows

A letter to the editor of The New York Times earlier this week aptly alerted the country to the dangers of anonymous shell corporations, which serve as shadowy pathways for moving money around the globe. Heather Lowe of Global Financial Integrity explained that the secrecy surrounding such corporations enables and encourages a host of illegal behavior.

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New Federal Agency Hits the Ground Running with Proactive Standards for the Release of Information

A new federal agency is making a strong start out of the box by establishing a proactive policy of releasing information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA regulations published today by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) include an important clause committing the agency to proactively disclose the information it collects. The agency adopted the policy in response to a recommendation by OMB Watch.

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Political Ad Transparency Will Advance After House GOP Drops Effort to Block FCC Rule

This morning, Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee reversed their position and allowed a crucial new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) transparency rule to stand. The FCC rule, adopted in April, requires television broadcasters to disclose who is buying political advertisements. These disclosures will be posted in a public online database.

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CFPB Issues Credit Card Transparency Policy

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released the final version of a policy that will disclose consumer complaints about credit card companies in an online, searchable database.

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