States of Transparency: MissouriBy Sarah Dorsey Aug 03 2010 4:31 p.m.
The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.
This week: Missouri
Residents of Missouri who want a glimpse at their state's official checkbook have a great resource in the so-called Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP). It's lacking one important tool, however: an accounting of state revenues. Online since 2005, the site boasts real-time updates, full downloadability and checkbook-level details. While it could benefit from a couple of improvements -- such as a list of the dates purchases were made -- it is a solid example of transparent accounting, at least on the payment side. According to Kelvin Simmons, Commissioner of Administration for the state, the website wasn't required by law when it went online, but subsequent legislation has institutionalized some of its offerings.
Timeliness: According to Simmons, the website is entirely automated. Payments and employee salaries are updated in real time.
Downloadability: All figures on the site, from entire fiscal years' worth of information to the results of individual searches, can be downloaded in machine-readable format by clicking on an "Export" button on the side of the page. The larger datasets can be obtained by heading over to the data download page.
Expenditures: The MAP site gets down in the weeds on this one. You can learn that in Fiscal Year 2009, the Office of Administration's Housekeeping and Janitor Services paid a company called A1 Economy Fire Protection $46 for "Fire Extinguisher Services." By searching by vendor name, you can see that in the last three fiscal years, that same company received $1,389 for various fire safety services.
Revenues: State revenue data is not available on mapyourtaxes.mo.gov. It's a big oversight, and one that if implemented, would bring Missouri's accountability site up to par with the best state sites in the nation.
Contracts: Like expenditures, contracts are available at a granular level, and can be searched by vendor name or agency. The state also offers a search by contract number. Other information can be found on a separate site, including details about winning and losing bids. This could come in handy both for reporters looking for improper dealings and for losing bidders looking for future contracts. Copies of the actual contracts aren't posted on the site, as they are in some other states.
Payroll Data: Current gross pay and year-to-date gross pay are available. While the figures aren't broken down into regular salary and bonuses, the numbers are up-to-date and include employees at all levels of government -- from janitors to executives.
Tax Breaks: The site does list five entities that received tax credits through two state programs, as well as a PDF that gives summary information about state tax breaks. It's helpful if you want to know what kind of ventures the state giving incentives to, and which industries are getting the biggest boosts (hint: real estate, real estate, real estate). But no individual companies are named in the report.
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