The Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) 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, MVRTA did not allow the Commonwealth to give the public a sufficient level of transparency regarding MVRTA’s operations, including its overall financial health and the nature and extent of its expenses.
Section 14C of Chapter 7 of the Massachusetts General Laws requires agencies, including quasi-public independent entities such as MVRTA, 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
MVRTA did not have documented policies and procedures to ensure that the required information was transmitted to the Secretary of EOAF, nor did it have monitoring controls to ensure that this task was completed as required.
In response to our draft report, MVRTA 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.
MVRTA believed the financial reporting on its website complied with the “spirit and transparency goal” of the transparency initiative. . . . The MVRTA 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, annual reports 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 MVRTA’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 MVRTA’s financial information to the Open Government section of our website, which in most instances satisfies the public’s request for information. The MVRTA also includes on its Open Government Page its Public Records Request Guidelines and a PDF request form for those rare cases a request for information is not contained on our website. The Public Records Request Guidelines and Request Form allow for a request to be handled in an expeditious manner, generally at no cost. Interestingly, these types of specialized requests, in most instances, would not be available through the data information elements presently contained in the State’s Open Checkbook (CTHRU) searchable format website.
- MVRTA should develop formal policies and procedures for submitting this required information to EOAF.
- MVRTA should establish monitoring controls to ensure that the staff members assigned to this task adhere to these policies and procedures.
The MVRTA with all other RTAs met with the State Comptroller’s Office on Tuesday June 12, to figure a way to get the data quickly on the EOAF website, this initially by placing the MVRTA’s website URL for the open government data to be available as a link immediately. The next step to be taken is to work out the data submission time lines as even the state offices have differing schedules of submission. MVRTA will develop its policy and monitoring controls once the time lines and final delivery criteria have been agreed to with the State Comptroller’s Office. The MVRTA is committed to open government and transparency.
Based on its response, MVRTA is taking measures to ensure that it reports this required information to EOAF.
|Date published:||July 31, 2018|