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The Edmond Sun: Government hides facts from citizens; Lankford fights back

By: James Coburn

U.S. Sen. James Lankford pushed for better information for taxpayers when he was in Congress. Now the Edmond Republican is fighting for Americans right to know about detailed data for agency programs.

Lankford introduced the Taxpayers Right to Know Act in the Senate along with a group of bipartisan senators.

There remains a lack of transparency regarding the overlapping roles of federal agencies in duplicating services, Lankford said. Agencies would have to provide detailed information and performance data for each of its programs.

“For too long, information about federal programs have hidden in $3.5 trillion budget line items that most people never see,” Lankford said in a statement. “The American taxpayer deserves to know where their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent — this bill ensures that.”

Lankford wants to save money, make government more efficient, by eliminating what he considers to be broken systems of government expense.

The Taxpayers Right to Know Act would require the Office of Management and Budget to post detailed financial data for each program as well as the number of employees and contractors who administer each program, Lankford said. OMB would also have to post links to the latest performance reviews and metrics for the program.

The bill is also sponsored by senators Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Mike Enzi, R-Wy., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

The legislation would also provide the public with the total amount of unspent and unobligated funds and grants held by agencies after its expiration date and a list of specific statues that authorize each program.

“A transparent government is an effective government,” McCaskill said. “By forcing federal agencies to make public information on spending and performance, this bipartisan bill empowers taxpayers with the tools needed to keep government honest and accountable.”

The bill was previously introduced last year, where it passed the House and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. But the full Senate never voted on it.

On Thursday, Lankford was named to five subcommittees of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. These committees are Energy and Water Development; Commerce, Justice, Science; Financial Services and General Government; Labor, HHS, Education; and State, Foreign Operations.

In addition to serving on Appropriations, Lankford sits on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Indian Affairs. He was recently named chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management and also serves on the Senate Republican Whip Team for the 114th Congress.