Organizational Transparency

Charges of financial mismanagement lead organization to double down on transparency

Renewed transparency focus was promoted through multiple channels, reducing media inquiries.

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The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) had a long history of valuing transparency, but the Department of Energy power marketing organization suddenly had a reputational issue on its hands. Its handling of the crisis has earned WAPA first place in the “Organizational Transparency” category of PR Daily’s 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Awards.

Reporters were asking about mismanagement of funds, notably the inappropriate use of government purchase cards. The glare of publicity would lead some organizations to clam up. WAPA opened up instead, launching a website called “The Source” that housed annual reports, budget allocation information, presentation decks, speeches, rates and a searchable index of the organization’s power systems. 

WAPA was aggressive in building awareness of the site’s availability. On its regular website, WAPA devoted a page specifically to the purchase card issue, reporting on an internal review, the corrective actions WAPA took and the consequences dealt out to the employees who misused the cards. 

Besides the use of purchase cards, there were also questions about “unobligated balances,” a line item that was misunderstood by the press. To address this issue, WAPA entered the realm of content management with a video titled, “What the Heck are Unobligated Balances?” that employed clear visuals and simple language to correct the record on these balances and the value they, in fact, deliver to multiple stakeholders. Journalists evidently watched the video; queries about unobligated balances evaporated. 

The Source has been accessed 7,700 times since it was launched; 3,700 visitors have viewed more than 20,000 pages. This case study in organizational transparency has been supported by executive actions, including congressional testimony

Congratulations to Phillip Reed and Leah Shapiro for shepherding a bold initiative in response to trying cicrcumstances.


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