Boston’s ‘checkbook’ will soon be available online

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Mayor Thomas M. Menino last night announced plans to share the city’s financial data through its open government portal, initially launched in October 2012.

Over the next few months, city officials will make more financial data available through the portal in the form of an online “checkbook,” which will show itemized city spending with details like vendor name, date of payment, and city department responsible for the expenditure.

The open government portal aims to improve engagement across city government and continues to expand in an effort to help connect Boston residents with city data, according to spokeswoman for Menino. Through the portal, visitors can already search for civic data, visualize data with interactive maps, review city performance, and partner with the city to develop and pilot new programs.

Last spring, state officials cracked open its checkbook online.

“The City of Boston is committed to an open government strategy. For us, it’s all about deepening the connection between residents and government,” Mayor Menino said. “That’s why we launched our open government portal in 2012 and continue our work to build out the platform.”
 
The Mayor’s announcement follows a report recently released by MASSPIRG Education Fund, which reviewed and graded the nation’s 30 largest cities on how effectively they allow the public to track budgets, contracting, subsidies, grants and requests for quality-of-life services. According to a press release issued by MASSPIRG, Boston’s “lack of checkbook-level city spending information” allowed room for improvement, and resulted in a “D -” grade.
 
“The City recognizes the need to make financial data available to the public. Now that we have upgraded our financial system, the time is right to increase the amount of available data,” said Meredith Weenick, chief financial officer. “We’re confident these efforts will qualify Boston for MASSPIRG’s Honor Roll this spring – and get us to the top of next year’s report.”
 
The MASSPIRG Report did credit the City’s work in delivering leading transparency tools, such as Citizens Connect and Boston About Results, that support city service delivery and government performance tracking.  
 
“With the Mayor’s support, we have been able to improve our engagement with the public through innovative uses of technology,” said Bill Oates, Chief Information Officer. “It has helped us create useful connections between our data and the stakeholders that benefit from using the data. We look forward to creating more of those connections.”
 


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