State Treasurer Seth Magaziner on Tuesday unveiled an initiative to bring more transparency to his office.
Magaziner says his initiative will make the treasurer’s office a national leader in transparency. For example, he said one new policy requires investment fund managers that want state business to disclose information about their finances.
"From now on if you are an investment fund that refuses to have your performance, fees, expenses and liquidity made public, you will not receive business from the state of Rhode Island," Magaziner said during a news conference in his office. "We manage public dollars and the public has a right to know how their money is being invested."
Magaziner said investment managers already working for the state have been asked to make the same degree of disclosure, and he described the reaction as generally positive. The state pension fund contains a balance of more than $8 billion.
The treasurer said his office will post more details about state investments, open meetings and other subjects on the state Treasury web site, and use a coordinator to implement transparent approaches throughout his department.
The treasurer said his office is making public the total spending on previously undisclosed hidden fees charged by investment managers of state pensions, and will break down the cost by individual companies later this year.
“This has never been done before in Rhode Island and to the best of my knowledge, is not being in any other state nationally,” Magaziner said.
He described Tuesday's launch of the transparency initiative by the treasurer's office as a first step that will incorporate growing amounts of data over time. The cost of the initiative is estimated at about $1,000 a year, due to the cost of software.
In 2013, a coalition of good government groups pressed Magaziner's predecessor, Governor Gina Raimondo, for more details about state investments in hedge funds. The details sought by the groups were discussed during a meeting of the state Investment Commission.
John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause of Rhode Island, and one of his predecessors, longtime Common Cause director H. Philip West Jr., attended Magaziner's news conference. West said the initiatives amount to a significant improvement for government transparency.