Hamilton Journal-News: Butler County, state spending now on watchdog app
By Michael D. Pitman
November 29, 2016
For the first time, the financial books at all levels of government in Ohio are accessible on smart phones.
That means anyone can look up on their computer and now on their phone nearly a decade’s worth of state spending, which equals 151 million state transactions accounting for more than $500 billion. On top of that, taxpayers can look up more than 2,000 local governments and more than 562,000 public employee salaries.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and Adam Andrzejewski, the chief executive officer of the Illinois-based nonprofit Open the Books, said Mandel’s office is the first anywhere to provide taxpayers a mobile application that offers more access to government spending.
“We are putting online and on people’s iPhones and Androids billions of pieces of information that will now allow taxpayers to search for state government spending, local government spending, school spending and salaries from their phone,” said Mandel.
The mobile app, called Ohio Checkbook and available in the app store for iPhone and Android devices, uses technology developed by Open the Books, an organization that promotes governmental fiscal transparency. He said this is furthering the transparency “movement” in Ohio, which moves the power from the politicians to the people.
“Our goal here is to create an army of citizen watchdogs who have the power to hold the politicians accountable,” said Mandel. “This whole transparency initiative is about giving power to the people.”
Two years ago the Ohio Treasurer’s office launched OhioCheckbook.com, which lays out some $552 billion in state spending over nine years. Over the past two years the office has gotten nearly 1,000 local governments from the county level on down to join in, which includes several of Butler County communities (Ross, Fairfield and Liberty townships, Oxford, Hamilton and Butler County). There are more than 3,900 local governments in the state.
Before the OhioCheckbook.com was launched, Ohio ranked near the bottom in fiscal transparency, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. But the site has catapulted the Buckeye State to the top of the fiscal transparency list, according to USPIRG.
“One of the things I think we really need to improve on was how we present the information on an iPhone or an Android (mobile device),” said Mandel.
Open the Books’ mobile app, called Open The Books, has some 3 billion public expenditures down to the municipal levels from nearly all 50 states at the fingertips of the American people. Andrzejewski says the importance of putting all this data in a mobile app is because that’s the trend. Nearly half of web traffic is from a mobile device, he said.
“No one has gone to where 40 percent of the web traffic is,” said Andrzejewski. “It’s very, very important to be in that space. Across the entire country, 50 states, Josh is the first to utilize the latest in technology on transparency. He’s set the bar even higher.”