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The Southeastern 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 the SRTA did not provide the public with a sufficient level of transparency regarding its operations and expenses.

Table of Contents

Overview

The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA) 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, SRTA did not allow the Commonwealth to give the public a sufficient level of transparency regarding SRTA’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 SRTA, 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 response to our draft report, SRTA 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 SRTA 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. The financial information currently contained on SRTA’s website provides the public with a sufficient level of transparency regarding the SRTA’s operations, including its overall financial health and the nature and extent of its expenses. As a matter of routine, public requests for SRTA’s financial information are directed to the Open Government section of SRTA’s website, which in most instances satisfies the public’s request for information. In those rare cases a request for information is not contained on SRTA’s website, it is treated as a Public Information Request and a response is quickly provided to the individual, generally at no cost.

Recommendations

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

Auditee’s Response

The SRTA 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 SRTA’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. SRTA 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 SRTA is committed to open government and transparency.

Auditor’s Reply

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

Date published: August 21, 2018
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