State comptroller unveils OpenBook portal for government transparency
Illinois State Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger has launched the latest transparency website initiative, OpenBook, which is a searchable database of state contracts and campaign contributions to help taxpayers follow the money of their elected officials.
With consistent concerns and debates over campaign contributions, evasive politicians and a growing state debt, such a website portal will offer some comfort (as well as concern) to Illinois citizens who are tired of wondering who is lining the pockets of elected officials.
“OpenBook provides a true portal of transparency for state government, where every dollar donated is recorded and can be traced back to any state contract awarded,” Munger said. “By combining information from the comptroller's accounting system with information collected by the Illinois State Board of Elections, residents are able to enter the name of an organization that does business with the state of Illinois, and look at the political contributions that entity or its employees have made.”
The site's features include a search engine that gives users easy access to the data by allowing them to begin searching with what they know, very much like Google for government.
In addition to a desktop version, Munger explained that OpenBook offers a mobile-friendly interface, which allows taxpayers to access the portal from their smartphones and tablets. For those who may be unfamiliar with how to work the portal, the website also offers tutorials that allow constituents to follow along for an in-depth explanation of how to operate the site and the scope of its capabilities.
"I am excited to make this announcement because I believe that government should be an open book that provides a full accounting for public dollars," Munger said. "This site is a true portal of transparency for state government, where every dollar donated to a campaign is recorded and can be traced back to any state contract awarded."
Munger wants constituents to know that she has prioritized technology advancements in the Comptroller's Office to improve efficiency, lower costs and increase transparency for taxpayers.
In addition to OpenBook, Munger explained that she has instigated efforts to update the office's website, as well as enhanced the state and local government financial records on The Ledger, which houses state financial records and all reports; and The Warehouse, which is a portal to local government finances.
In a recent bill backlog wrap up of fiscal year 2016, which came to a close on June 30, Munger stressed that the ongoing budget stalemate has had an effect on Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills in serious ways.
To keep constituents in-the-know, these sites will collectively keep voters aware of where their tax dollars are going and how their government is remedying the growing budget issues.
The Comptroller’s Office also launched Fiscal Focus, a financial information blog; and maintains a toll-free hotline available to residents with questions about the budget or state government.
The most recent Fiscal Focus blog breaks down the backlog of unpaid bills, which increased by more than $3.5 billion.