[wdmmg-discuss] Future plans for OpenSpending

Lucy Chambers lucy.chambers at okfn.org
Sat Jun 25 18:22:11 UTC 2011

Dear Lisa,

Thanks for your input - we are currently in the process of building a
wishlist, where we keep and analyse people's thoughts and what they
would like to see and hopefully soon will be converting them into a
roadmap ))

Comments inline...

On Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 4:15 PM, Lisa Evans <lisa.evans at okfn.org> wrote:
> Martin,
> 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...

> * 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.

Definitely - having access to this would be very interesting and
useful. There were some interesting names that jumped out in the
recent release of the UK government's spending data (e.g.
http://openspending.org/entity/the-shadow-robot-company-limited) that
would be great to know more about.

I'm not an expert on commercial confidentiality, do you know what the
most frequently-used arguments are about not making this type of
information public?  Have you come up against them yourself? It would
be good to know so that we can measure what we are up against!

> * 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.

I will look into this, it would be very interesting indeed to see what
money the government actually has, irrespective of how much they spend
or how wisely they spend it! If you have any useful links or
suggestions of where to look to find out more about this, they would
be gratefully received ))

> * 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.

Totally agree - at the moment with a 1-2 year lag - we have very
little chance to do anything about how money is spent...

I've been looking at the spending cuts work the BBC have been doing
and it is great that their data is available online to download:

Do you have a list of the links you have been looking at where this
data is mentioned/ available to download? It would be very useful to
have a list of such resources so that we can register them in CKAN ))

> * 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.

Yes - and with the new Spending Stories project, it would be very
interesting to see what we can do with them. We would be very grateful
for your input as a journalist on what you would like to see from
Spending Stories and how we could make it most useful as a resource!

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

Absolutely - and I hope other people will chime-in to this discussion.
Thank you so much for all your thoughts, please do keep them coming
and it would be great to meet up at the space in London to talk about
this further!

All the best,


> Lisa
> 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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Lucy Chambers
Community Coordinator
Open Knowledge Foundation
Skype: lucyfediachambers

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