[wdmmg-discuss] Future plans for OpenSpending

Lisa Evans lisa.evans at okfn.org
Thu Jun 16 15:15:16 UTC 2011


I think to write valuable and interesting stories on public spending it 
helps to have the building blocks of:

* Spending with suppliers

This is the spending above a defined spending threshold for government 
bodies. So for local authorities it is spending over 50 pounds, for 
central government and health authorities it is spending over 25,00 pounds 
etc. On it's own this data pretty much only tells us who the suppliers 
are, not what their role is or what they are doing with the money they 
get. It might be worth investigating some of the more interesting cases 
but my experience is that this has small returns. The value of this data 
is when it is combined with other sets, the best one I can think of is 

* Contracts

That is the contracts government is publishing plus others obtained 
through FOI. Potentially this could be used to make sense of what the 
suppliers should be doing in the spending with suppliers data. It will 
take years to all this though, as contracts are only being published as 
they are signed off, and FOI can be tricky as good old commercial 
confidentially is often used and is difficult to deal with.

* Accounts

There is a set of accounts for every government funded body in the UK. The 
treasury have most of these accounts in digital form so they can use them 
for the whole of government accounts project. The other option for getting 
these accounts is to download the pdf of the financial statement or annual 
report from each public body's website. I've been working out ways of 
usefully interpreting public sector accounts and knowing what values to 
expect for certain calculations - so we have some sense of when there is 
something wrong in the accounts.  It is also worth mentioning that the 
whole of government accounts project will publish this year and this will 
be the consolidated accounts from every public body. It is not clear how 
the treasury plan to publish this work but worth finding out.

* Budgets

The BBC have done an excellent job of collating local authority budgets 
for this financial year. I think this is the first time the budgets have 
been published in the same year they apply to. Would be nice to see this 
data put to good use.

* Summary reports e.g. PESA, CRA
It is good to have these as top level checks for public finances.

I'm sure that within all of these data sets there are good stories worth 
telling and a good resource for apps.

Starting more discussion about how to understand public accounts and what 
values are acceptable would, I think, be a good OKFN community project.


On Tue, 7 Jun 2011, Martin Keegan wrote:

> Hello,
> There'll be a face-to-face discussion of OpenSpending's future direction at
> OKCon in Berlin at the end of the month; it would be great if people who're
> interested could discuss what they'd like to see, on this mailing list
> leading up to then.
> Lucy and I will try to keep a summary of these discussions at:
> http://wiki.openspending.org/Future_plans (linked from the front page of the
> wiki), though obviously anyone's welcome to edit that directly.
> What I'd like to hear views on is
> 1) where we think OpenSpending can best contribute to spending transparency,
> given what other projects are doing
> 2) what should be out of scope; what we should NOT be doing
> 3) the technological architecture / implementation of the software
> and doubtless people will have many other matters they need to discuss.
> Mk

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