The state's online checkbook opened to the public this weekend.
The web site allows users to drill into an agency’s revenue streams, expenditures, employee salaries, payments to cities and counties, bonded indebtedness, and vendor contracts.
Expenditures will include data coming from the state’s AASIS accounting program, constitutional officer budgets, the Highway Department, and Lottery Commission. Institutions of Higher Education are not in the state system and will not be displayed in the online checkbook.
Currently, state employee salaries are searchable, but by July 7, additional agency and constitutional officer information will be online.
Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R), who pushed for the transparency measure, says the new government search tool exceeded his expectations.
“They went above and beyond the scope of what the law said that they had to offer,” D
arr said in an interview on this week's Talk Business radio program. “I'm very impressed with the administration and DF&A, the job that they did on it… I actually think its easier than logging on to your bank web site.”
Darr acknowledges that much of the information in the online checkbook can be obtained by citizens through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the new web tool cuts out the middleman and allows instant access, he says.
“My hope is that government will be accountable. People will know where tax dollars are being spent. If they have a question, they'll be able to look it up instead of not knowing what to do or who to contact for information,” Darr said.
He thinks that the transparency will strengthen elected officials integrity and cause them to think twice before making questionable expenses.
“It will keep elected officials like me and the 135 members of the legislature, state agencies – before we swipe a credit card somewhere or before we spend some money in our office, we're going to know that the people of Arkansas are going to be able to see how we're spending our money,” Darr said.
You can listen to the audio version of his radio interview here.