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The Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority Did Not Submit Required Financial Information to the Commonwealth to Be Made Available to the Public on a Searchable Website.

Audit found that VTA did not provide the public with a sufficient level of transparency regarding its operations and expenses.

Table of Contents

Overview

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority (VTA) did not submit required financial information about its operations (e.g., expenditures) to the Executive Office for Administration and Finance (EOAF) so this information could be made available to the public on a searchable website. Therefore, VTA did not allow the Commonwealth to give the public a sufficient level of transparency regarding VTA’s operations, including its overall financial health and the nature and extent of its expenses.

Authoritative Guidance

Section 14C of Chapter 7 of the Massachusetts General Laws requires agencies, including quasi-public independent entities such as VTA, to report their “appropriations, expenditures, grants, subgrants, loans, purchase orders, infrastructure assistance and other forms of financial assistance” to the Secretary of EOAF for inclusion on the Office of the State Comptroller’s searchable website. Section 14C(e) states, “All agencies shall provide to the secretary all data that is required to be included in the searchable website not later than 30 days after the data becomes available to the agency.”

Reasons for Noncompliance

In its response to our draft report, VTA senior management stated,

The RTAs as a group proposed a low cost alternative to their participation in this initiative, which involved publication of the financial data on the RTAs’ individual websites. Chapter 7, Section 14C under clause (g) contemplates and provides for the redirection of the public from the State’s Open Checkbook website to other government websites as long as each of those websites complies with the requirements of this section.

The VTA has made a concerted effort over the years to comply with the spirit and transparency goal of the Chapter 7, Section 14C “Open Checkbook (CTHRU)” initiative through the publication of its payroll and financial payment information, audited financial statements, and approved fiscal year budgets on its website in a searchable format. We believe the financial information currently contained on our website provides the public with a sufficient level of transparency regarding the VTA’s operations, including its overall financial health and the nature and extent of its expenses. As a matter of routine, we direct public requests for VTA’s financial information to the Open Government section of our website, which in most instances satisfies the public’s request for information. In those rare cases a request for information is not contained on our website, we treat it as a Public Information Request and quickly respond to the individual, generally at no cost.

Recommendations

  1. VTA should develop formal policies and procedures for submitting this required information to EOAF.
  2. VTA should establish monitoring controls to ensure that the staff members assigned to this task adhere to these policies and procedures.

Auditee’s Response

The RTAs met collectively with the State Comptroller’s Office on Tuesday June 12, 2018 to determine the best way to provide data quickly for the Executive Office for Administration and Finance’s website. VTA’s link to its web-based open government data was immediately linked to the Commonwealth’s CTHRU website. The next step to be taken is to work out data submission timelines as state agencies have differing schedules of submission. VTA will develop its policy and monitoring controls once the timelines and final delivery criteria have been agreed to with the Office of the Comptroller. VTA has been and will continue to be committed to open government and transparency.

Auditor’s Reply

Based on its response, VTA is taking measures to ensure that it properly reports this information.

Date published: October 10, 2018
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