Government Technology wrote an article last week, Ohio Offers Financial Transparency Statewide, which reported on Ohiocheckbook.com, Ohio’s first interactive financial transparency dashboard that helps citizens and officials track government spending. Ohiocheckbook.com will contain financial data from 3,900 Ohio cities, counties and government entities online in accessible, searchable form. Citizens will have access to this information when the site is launched late June 2015.
Ohio’s new financial website is a part of a larger initiative announced by Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel to provide greater transparency by the state. Over the past 4 months since the debut of Ohiocheckbook.com the state’s financial transparency rating from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has jumped from 46th to first in the nation.
As quoted in the article, Mandel said, “I think there’s going to be a lot of public pressure from citizens for every local government to get their finances online.”
Over the past couple years there has been increased pressure for government to increase financial transparency to the public. President Obama signed the Digital Accountability Act in 2014 and issued an executive order in 2013 for federal agencies to publish all financial data.
Many states have adopted similar transparency policies. The consumer advocacy group, U.S. PIRG, issued a report Following the Money 2015 that graded each of the 50 US states. Grades were based on transparency efforts such as information made available to the public and the functionality the websites provided. States such as Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon and Ohio scored very favorably. Ohio’s A+ score was due to its Ohiocheckbook.com functionality of offering citizens a single portal for all information, advanced single-click search functionality, and comprehensive data that includes spending by quasi-government agencies and public-private partnerships.
Mandel is quoted in the article How Does Your State Rank for Financial Data Transparency, “I believe taxpayers have a right to know how their tax money is being spent, and I think the best way to make government more efficient is to empower citizens to hold politicians accountable.” Mandel continues, “My vision is to create an army of citizen watchdogs and in just three months, we’ve had over 130,000 searches. So I think the politicians and other government workers have been put on notice that people are watching.”