Evidence of political interference in the decision-making processes related to governmental actions, including the development of capital budgets, can be found throughout American history. Taking a look at this connection can help shed some light on the wide variety of outcomes possible when considering and discussing government initiatives, including budgets.
Throughout history, individuals and groups have focused their efforts on exposing fraudulent and corrupt political and government processes. One of the most significant movements that highlighted political corruption was the Progressive Movement. Starting in the late 1890s, this movement sought to reform social and economic corruption and abuse. Even then, business leaders and political figureheads understood the importance of inclusion in the political process. In a large sense, the spirit and aims of the Progressive Movement continue today.
The capital budget process helps local, state and federal governments identify capital development projects that require short- or long-term funding. This includes projects related to infrastructure, land acquisition and major renovations to government and public structures. Once the capital budget is completed, the bidding process for contracts and funding begins in earnest. If not handled properly, the door can open wide enough for unscrupulous behavior and actions.
Individuals, special interest groups and businesses can all benefit from the approval of specific projects and funding initiatives. Benefits can include advertising and press at ribbon-cutting ceremonies and opportunities to earn additional government contracts and projects. Elected officials must reach decisions that benefit the greater good without regard to the benefits provided to those awarded government contracts or capital project work. The fine line that separates politics and the capital budget process must remain clear and delineable during the entire process to ensure corruption remains at bay.
With jobs and future growth at stake, companies may look to capital budget projects to help them succeed. Agencies in charge of establishing budget priorities, developing the budget and examining potential contractors need to follow guidelines and documentation procedures to ensure the process remains free of political influence. Political corruption at any point in the capital budget process has the potential to reduce revenue and increase costs related to capital projects and initiatives.
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