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|Obama takes aim at credit card companies|
April 23, 2009
As part of a larger push on consumer finance issues and under mounting pressure from cash-strapped Americans, President Obama called in executives from 13 credit card companies to deliver a stern message: Crack down on the kinds of practices that the Federal Reserve has called "unfair" and "deceptive."
|Clear government writing has a price, U.S. budget analysts say|
April 09, 2009
The price of clear writing in government documents: $3 million a year.
That’s what it would cost for the U.S. government to train employees in using plain language and prepare progress reports to Congress on the effort, according to a report issued by the Congressional Budget Office and posted on its Web site.
The nonpartisan agency estimated the cost to comply with the Plain Writing Act sponsored by Senator Daniel Akaka. The Hawaii Democrat’s legislation would require federal agencies to practice “writing that the intended audience can readily understand and use because that writing is clear, concise, well- organized, and follows other best practices of plain writing.”
The bill was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on a voice vote April 1, according to the panel’s Web site. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House by Representative Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat.
|Geithner calls for tougher standards on risk|
March 26, 2009
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is calling for changes in how the government oversees risk-taking in financial markets, pushing for tougher rules on how big companies manage their finances as well as tighter controls on some hedge funds and money-market mutual funds.
|City recognized for financial report in plain English|
September 06, 2008
It's hard to beat plain English for understandable communication. Tallahassee City Auditor Sam McCall thinks that same basic rule should apply to a financial report, too.
Tallahassee has become the latest city to publish a "Citizen-Centric Report" as a means of communicating clear, understandable government financial information to residents and encouraging citizen involvement in the budgeting process. The distinction has been recognized officially by the Association of Government Accountants.
"This is the first year we did it," said McCall. The AGA is made up of about 15,000 financial-management professionals in federal, state and local government. Their concern is that if citizens are to hold government financially accountable, then they need information that clearly explains what government is doing and how it's spending the dollars it takes in.
"What they are getting and what they want are two different things," McCall said.
While many public officials and agencies today regard citizens as customers, he likes to think of them as owners — similar to the stockholders who receive company financial statements to know how their investments are doing.
While stockholders seek profits and return on equity, taxpayers expect to see what their money was spent on and what was accomplished. "Are we doing what the citizens expect us to do?" he added.
The four-page report begins with a description of the city's government and organization, leading into the services provided and how they are funded. One chart breaks down the sources of the various revenues, and another shows how they are allocated for police, parks, public works, debt service and other expenses.
And there is a distinct lack of jargon that often appears in such reports.
The AGA's initiative for financial reporting is called Advancing Government Accountability. The intent is to develop new thinking and practices in government accountability and transparency, promoting their value to the public as well as to those in government. The organization stresses the importance of government financial information that is clear and understandable, updated regularly, easily accessible and technically accurate in detail.
McCall says he is interested in Tallahassee residents' reaction as well, including areas of interest in which an audit may be warranted to determine whether the taxpayers are getting value for their dollars.
"I'm keeping a folder on all the responses I get back from people," he said, adding that nearly 40 have offered their input.
For a copy of the report, go to www.talgov.com/auditing/pdf/citizenreportt2007.pdf.
Full Story: tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080906/BUSINESS/809060327/1003
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