Maryland government gets lower grade for spending transparency

By Becca Heller

DBM Website 2013According to a report by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Maryland received a C grade for transparency in government spending this year. The grade, which is based on the state’s transparency website, is a half step down from last year’s C+.

The drop in grade is reflective of PIRG’s increasingly tough grading standards, and, according to the report: “in order for states to keep up with rising standards and maintain high scores, they must continually improve transparency.” 

PIRG identifies the best transparency tools as being engaging, easily searchable, and comprehensive. The inaccessibility of Maryland’s website likely led to its less-than-perfect C grade.

“The state of Maryland should improve the breadth and ease-of-access of online government spending information,” said Jenny Levin, State Advocate with Maryland PIRG Foundation, in a statement. “Given our state budget problems, Marylanders need to be able to follow the money.”

States leading Maryland in their transparency efforts include: Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Oklahoma.

“State governments across the country have become more transparent about where public money goes, providing citizens with the information they need to hold elected officials and businesses that receive public funds accountable,” said Levin. “But Maryland still has a long way to go.”

About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:


  1. cwals99

    This study by the PIRG MD is flawed and it is easy to detect the fact that it is flawed. One wonders why Maryland media outlets all go with this skewed report by PIRG MD and not the Center for Public Integrity State study on corruption and transparency which gave Maryland a very low D- with the state failing in most brackets.

    I took the time to investigate and found that PIRG MD took data from these handful of states and graded on a curve to give the grade of C. So, if all of the states considered failed in all the parameters…which the Center for Public Integrity shows happens in many cases….the one that fails the least…..say Chicago gets an A and the one that fails the most gets an F and the one that fails in between gets the C. So, the study shows that Maryland was moderate in its failure! THE STUDY WAS GRADED ON A CURVE GUYS AND SINCE THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY RELEASED ITS FINDINGS FIRST…ONE THINKS THIS IS JUST TO MAKE THE STATE LOOK BETTER THAN IT IS!!! My goodness, could there be any more crime and corruption in one state? There is absolutely no oversight of anything and everything is being handed to private contractors. Nationwide we know these public private partnerships are rife with fraud and corruption!!!

  2. hungrypirana

    Spending information put on the web by the states under the guise of transparency is in reality “data dumps” without any reconciliation
    controls to assure completeness or data integrity. None of the 50 states disclose on their websites the total amount of outlays (i.e., cash disbursements) or the amounts and categories of outlays that have been excluded from their dumps. None of the 50 states
    provides any reconciliations between the data dumps and the corresponding audited financial statements.

    PIRG could be more critical of states’ nominal transparency claims. It could lower grades for all states because they: (1) do not disclose
    material differences between total outlays and aggregate disbursement data dumped onto the web; (2) have no data completeness and integrity controls; and (3) do not reconcile or disclose material differences between dumped data and audited financial-statement information.

    • ConstituentOfClowns

      Well, to be fair, as Pelosi would say, they’ll have to spend the money so they’ll know how they spent it.

  3. iamacitizen

    “breadth and ease of access” is a nice thought, but it’s the intentionally erroneous data that really drives me nuts.