Ensuring the public has access to government information

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Amendment W on the November ballot is brought by “Represent US,” a Massachusetts-based group that thinks we need to amend our state Constitution to stop corruption in Pierre.  Some political candidates are also campaigning on a platform that revolves around the idea that they need to be sent to the Capitol to stop corruption in Pierre.

It makes for an easy campaign slogan…but is it true?

Many steps have been taken over the past few years to make sure the public has easy access to government information.

  • The South Dakota Transparency Website at open.sd.gov is a great starting point. This website contains links to the state payroll, the state checkbook, contracts and grants, and the state budget.
  • The Department of Legislative Audit (DLA) has extensive reports about the finances of the state, counties, municipalities, schools, special districts, regional railroad authorities, and pool arrangements. DLA has authority to audit any state officer, department, agency, board or commission, and any political subdivision.  The DLA website (legislativeaudit.sd.gov) has a “red flag” option for anyone to report suspected fraud, noncompliance, or abuse.  Allegations may be submitted anonymously.
  • Allegations about Medicaid fraud are submitted to the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at atg.sd.gov.
  • The activities of the state’s various boards and commissions can also be found online, including agendas, minutes, board members, and related documents. For many boards and commissions, you can even listen to the board meeting online as it happens.  Visit boardsandcommissions.sd.gov to learn more.
  • In the 2017 Session, the legislature established a Government Accountability Board to review and investigate allegations of financial impropriety by any person holding a statewide office and employees of the executive branch. The scope of the board’s responsibilities, as well as a complaint form, are also at boardsandcommissions.sd.gov.
  • Political candidates are required to file campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State. Those reports are posted online, as well as elected officials’ conflict of interest and financial interest statements.  Political action committees are also required to file financial reports.  These documents can be viewed at sdsos.gov.

There are ways for South Dakotans to make sure state and local governments are honestly doing the public’s business. Everyone has access to information about how tax moneys are being spent.  Everyone has an open invitation to look into the activities of boards and commissions.  Everyone can see how political campaigns are being funded, and whether public officials have a potential conflict of interest on a topic.

And if something is amiss, by all means please report those concerns so they can be investigated and addressed.  I invite any questions about the specifics of recently passed legislation concerning corruption or about how to report issues!

 

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