City Comptroller John Liu unveiled version 2.0 of the Checkbook NYC website this week. Originally created in 2010, Checkbook NYC was meant to open up the city finances to the general public.
Liu has been working with the Mayor’s Office of Contracts, the City Council, the city’s Financial Information Services Agency and the Office of Management and Budget to build a more comprehensible checks and balance system.
“Checkbook NYC 2.0 empowers and enlists the public to keep an eye on government spending and thereby curtails wasteful and improper spending of public money,” Liu said. “With out-of-control cost overruns and a growing public sense that tax dollars are not funding real priorities, this application could not have come sooner.”
Focusing on contracts, payroll and spending habits, Checkbook 2.0 has refurbished the old search and navigation, historical trends and data exports from the original Checkbook NYC.
The original website received a rating of 98 out of a possible 100 from the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) study, Transparency in City Spending: Rating the Availability of Online Government Data in America’s Largest Cities.
“In the four years we’ve published evaluations of government-spending transparency, we haven’t seen any site with this much capacity to follow the tax dollars,” said Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst and program director for Tax and Budget Policy at U.S. PIRG. “I doubt any Fortune 500 company keeps track of its own spending as comprehensively, much less as openly, as New York City.”
In collaboration with REI Systems, a firm that worked with the Obama Administration to create a series of transparency websites on the federal level like USAspending.gov, DATA.gov and ITdashboard.gov, the new website now grants the public the opportunity to audit their own city agencies.
“There’s no room for waste or corruption in this government,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “We need this kind of sunlight shed on all parts of the city to hold agencies accountable.”
A driving feature behind the updated site is the new dashboard system, which offers a series of apps designed to navigate the city’s expenditures.
The Spending App provides users with an up-to-date view of all city transactions; the Contracts App (a revamp to the Comptroller’s Clearview NYC application) oversees contract adjustments for vendors and city agencies; and the Payroll App is built to screen citywide payroll-spending cycles.
With the Trends tool, users can search through the city’s historical debt, population and budget developments dating back 20 years.
“By giving taxpayers the ability to track expenditures, budgets, and contracts, we can further promote trust in local government and improve the way public money is spent ultimately contributing to greater cost-effectiveness and stronger fiscal performance for the city,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Version 3.0, which is currently under development, is expected to add applications that will provide access to revenue data, subcontracting information, agency’s budgetary conditions, and developments in capital projects.