OpenBook Wisconsin Brings Financial Transparency to Taxpayers

On January 2, the Wisconsin Department of Administration launched OpenBook Wisconsin, a website intended to increase financial transparency of state spending. According to a press release by the DOA, the website is “taking a dynamic approach to transparency” and contains more than 25 million entries dating back to 2007, covering everything from fuel purchases to office supplies.

Although the site is still considered a “work in progress” by DOA Deputy Secretary Chris Schoenherr, OpenBook Wisconsin still provides taxpayers access to previously undisclosed information on how their money is being spent. According to Schoenherr, the website plans to add salaries and fringe benefits of state employees, grants awarded, and state agencies’ contracts in the future.

The state previously tried enacting a similar program called Contract Sunshine under former Gov. Jim Doyle. A lack of resources and enforcement power in conjunction with a 2011 audit found that the website was not only difficult to navigate, it did not consistently provide accurate data. This pushed Wisconsin lawmakers to come up with a better solution for enhancing financial transparency. The creation of OpenBook Wisconsin was a direct result of Act 32 of the 2011 state budget.  

Current Governor Scott Walker has put a premium on increasing taxpayers' knowledge of how their money is being spent by the state; “(Walker’s) underlying theme has always been that this is the taxpayers' money…We should be able to provide them an easy way to be able to see how it is spent” according to Shroenherr.

Gov. Walker’s commitment to increasing financial transparency offers Wisconsinites unparalleled access to financial records and real-time spending data. The Governor summed it up perfectly when he said, “OpenBook Wisconsin brings a historic level of openness and transparency to state government and this website gives taxpayers an unprecedented level of access to the state’s finances.”   

TAGS: Spending, Transparency, issues

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