Local Governments Need Financial Transparency Tools

Cities of the Future: “Comprehensive financial transparency — allowing anyone to look up the allocation of budgets, expenses by department, and even the ledger of each individual expense as it happens — can help local governments restore residents’ confidence, help manage the budget efficiently and make more informed decisions for new projects and money allocation.

A few weeks ago, we had municipal elections in Spain. Many local governments changed hands and the new administrations had to review the current budgets, see where money was being spent and, on occasion, discovered expenses they were not expecting.

As costs rise and cities find it more difficult to provide the same services without raising taxes, citizens among others are demanding full disclosure of income and expenses.

Tools such as OpenGov platform are helping cities accomplish that goal…Earlier this year the city of Beaufort (pop. 13,000), South Carolina’s second oldest city known for its historic charm and moss-laden oak trees, decided to implement OpenGov. It rolled out the platform to the public last February, becoming the first city in the State to provide the public with in-depth, comprehensive financial data (spanning five budget years).

The reception by the city council and residents was extremely positive. Residents can now look up where their tax money goes down to itemized expenses. They can also see up-to-date charts of every part of the budget, how it is being spent, and what remains to be used. City council members can monitor the administration’s performance and ask informed questions at town meetings about the budget use, right down to the smallest expenses….

Many cities are now implementing open data tools to share information on different aspects of city services, such as transit information, energy use, water management, etc. But those tools are difficult to use and do not provide comprehensive financial information about the use of public money. …(More)”