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NJ scales back how often it reports on agency performance

August 7, 2018

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie promised when he took office in 2010 to have New Jersey state agencies provide the public with monthly performance reports.

But the administration wasn’t always able to meet that target.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration says it will keep the governor’s performance center on YourMoney.nj.gov going but it is promising “periodic” — not monthly — reports, which the administration says will mean about quarterly and more accurately reflect the data agencies use for the reports.

The administration, though, has missed that goal in some cases.

Three of 22 agencies have not submitted any reports since Christie left office, including the Departments of Children and Families, Human Services and State.

Many have posted updates only through the first quarter of this year, though others have reports through June.

The administration says it’s still committed to transparency and Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino says the second quarter updates are expected soon. The administration is also looking into why some departments are lagging.

Advocates of government transparency say providing information about state business removes hurdles for the press and public and can cut down on costly litigation.

“Just put it all out there,” said David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for the public’s right to know. “Put it all out there affirmatively and that, I think, reduces the burden on government and it certainly reduces the burden on the public and the press.”

The reports catalog a variety of government services.

They include, for example, how many grant applications the state’s historical commission received, the number of bus safety inspections a day as well as the average wait time for car inspections (up from about 10 minutes to almost 12 minutes in the quarter ending in March, with a target of 8 minutes).

Christie pledged in 2010 to give monthly agency reports, but an Associated Press review in 2016 found that some departments failed to live up to the promise. At the time, Christie’s office said that such a level of transparency had never previously existed and to the extent that some departments fell behind, reports would eventually be made available.

The YourMoney.nj.gov website also includes data on public salaries and government purchases.

Residents can also access information about the departments on their individual websites. The Treasury Department, for instance, makes information about budgets available on its website and includes annual performance targets for the departments.

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