West Virginia Press Association Staff Report
The RIPIRG Education Fund, which does public interest research, recognized West Virginia in its report: “Following the Money 2018 — How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data”
The state received an A+ rating and a 98 score to tie with Ohio for the top rank in the nation.
“Making its debut on the list of ‘Leading States’, West Virginia has made its check-book-level spending data fully downloadable and added a dedicated page to listing the state’s quasi-public agencies. The state has also begun posting or linking to more information on its economic development subsidies,” the report states.
Among West Virginia state government and legislative efforts to improve transparency in spending, the RIPIRG recognition of “check-book-level spending data” comes in the same year W.Va. State Auditor John B. McCuskey started operation of his office’s new wvcheckbook.gov website, in conjunction with OpenGov. McCuskeyOpenGov is an easy-to-use, cloud-based solution for budgeting and planning, operational performance, and citizen engagement that is currently being used by more than 1,800 public agencies in 48 states.
In announcing the new website and government spending transparency effort early this year, McCuskey said, “This site has been built in a way that will be efficient and user-friendly for all of our citizens who seek to track and examine where their tax dollars are being spent.
McCuskey has been doing media interviews and visiting counties around the state encouraging use the new website: “The data on our transparency website is available to everyone,” McCuskey said. “If you have not visited wvCheckbook.gov, please do so. The site is easy to navigate and will allow you to see where and how your taxpayer dollars are being spent. We strongly believe that opportunities for fraud, waste and corruption will diminish considerably when financial transactions are available to the public.”
NOTE: See Auditor McCuskey’s interview about the website and the auditor’s office on WV Press InSight:
In reviewing West Virginia, the RIPIRG reported noted: “West Virginia is one of eight states recognized for leading the charge in online spending transparency. These states have created user-friendly websites that provide visitors with accessible and comprehensive information on state spending. Citizens can access information on specific ex- penditures through easy-to-use features, including a multitiered search function that allows users to search for two or more criteria at once,” the report continued.
“Increasingly, states are providing their financial information on platforms that enable users to easily view spending information and contextualize that data with visualization tools. States such as Ohio, West Virginia and Delaware all provide responsive charts and graphs that show spending information for departments and categories as users navigate through the site. …”
“Over the past two years, several states have added new features or practices to improve transparency. They have revamped their websites or added datasets giving citizens a new or enhanced ability to view, analyze, monitor and in uence how their government allocates resources.
“Several states have greatly improved their transparency websites in the past two years by posting new data, improving the user experience or making existing transparency tools more user-friendly. Both Arizona and Delaware launched new and more user-friendly checkbook portals since 2016. Despite this year’s tighter grading criteria, ten states improved their scores from 2016: Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and West Virginia. …”
See the RIPIRG report at https://ripirgedfund.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/RIP%20FollowMoney%20Report%20Apr18.pdf