State “Checkbook” Websites

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently reported that “Every state now runs some kind of public accountability — or ‘checkbook’ — site.”

There are many benefits to such websites. In addition to the obvious increase in transparency, Pew reports, “State financial officials say that checkbook websites can help save money by identifying inefficiencies and reducing the amount of time spent by staff filling information requests. Posting contract information on the websites can result in more competitive bidding and lower bids. For example, interested vendors might see that they could win a contract by offering a lower price, and state agencies might see that they could consolidate contracts to get a better deal.”

Pennsylvania’s checkbook site, PennWATCH, was launched in December 2012. (Rep. Jim Christiana of Beaver County was the original sponsor of legislation to create the site.) I like the PennWATCH site a lot, and it received a solid “B” grade from a recent report (Following the Money 2015: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data) analyzing all 50 states’ efforts in this area.

Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law requires state agencies to post contracts valued at $5,000 or more at the State Treasurer’s website.

Ohio’s checkbook site was singled out in both the Pew analysis and the Following the Money 2015 report as the best such site. It’s definitely worth a look: http://ohiotreasurer.gov/Transparency/Ohios-Online-Checkbook

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