Oklahoma Government Earns a ‘D’ for Deterring Corruption, Report Says

  • Joe Wertz

Kmillard92 / Flickr

Integrity is a hard thing to measure, but it tops the wish list when voters talk about qualities they value in public officials.

The State Integrity Investigation has released the results of a data-driven analysis of each state’s laws and practices that promote accountability and openness and deter corruption.

Oklahoma earned a D and ranked No. 38. And its most severe failings concern the budget process and the public workforce.

Oklahoma’s report card is above. It’s interactive, so click around to see the questions behind the scores.

The State Integrity Investigation is a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.

The $1.5 million project is data-driven and peer-reviewed. Experienced journalists graded each state government on a list of 330 specific “corruption risk indicators,” which formed after interviews with experts on state government and public sector reform.

We asked them a simple question: what issue areas mattered most in their state when it came to the risk of significant corruption occurring in the public sector?

No state received an A.

Oklahoma’s 64 percent score was driven, in part, by exemptions to the open records law and lax enforcement of ethics laws. All our neighboring states were issued D’s, too, except Kansas, which earned a C.

Oklahoma earned Fs in four categories, and the state budget process earned the lowest score: 47 percent. Other failing categories that directly impact the Oklahoma workforce and economy involve state pensions and lobbying disclosure.

State Budget Process: F (47%)

While Oklahoma earned 100 percent in public availability of budget records, the rest of the state budget scores were very poor. Oklahoma scored an F on questions about legislative oversight of how effectively public money was used. But the state received an F on the public’s ability to access the budget process and an F on having a well-resourced budged office for nonpartisan analysis of budget proposals.

In Oklahoma, most of the public’s information comes after the money is spent, reports the Tulsa World’s Ziva Branstetter, also the Oklahoma journalist employed by the State Integrity Investigation.

After funds are spent, there is a lot of information available to citizens through the state’s expenditure site, Openbooks. However detailed budgetary allocations to agencies often are not available because lawmakers tend to give agencies lump sums and let them determine how to spend the funds.

David Blatt, director of the non-profit Oklahoma Policy Institute, said what agency directors are told by lawmakers “more or less explicitly is, ‘We are cutting you five percent. Figure it out. We don’t want to get any calls.’”

State Pension Management: F (51%)

Oklahoma’s State-run pension oversight and regulation also received an F.

Oklahoma failed at having adequate transparency laws and regulations regarding state pensions. And regulations governing conflicts of interest of state pension managers and board members received an F, too.

Lobbying Disclosure: F (55%)

Lobbying was another low mark in Oklahoma.

Lobbyists’ employers or principles aren’t required to disclose spending, and the effectiveness of current lobbying disclosures earned a 33 percent in the State Integrity Investigation’s score.