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Financial Transparency Platform for the Public Sector

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New online platform to make public budgets more transparent

Openness and transparency can act as a disincentive to corruption. Government agencies, data wranglers, journalists and even citizens can access a comprehensive online platform to analyse and participate in public budgets.

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When budget data are too complex for citizens and decision-makers to decipher, it becomes impossible for them to formulate valid opinions and make a stance against government policy if they wish. To avoid this situation, fiscal data sets should be simple, easy to comprehend and, above all, accessible. The project, known as OBEU, has developed an open-source software framework and a software-as-a-service (SAAS) to support financial transparency and enhance accountability within the public sector at all levels up to European level. “This requires a holistic approach combining learning materials, visualisations and explainers,” outlines Dr Fabrizio Orlandi, project coordinator. Toolbox to visualise, analyse, entertain and learn OBEU has created a platform with a complete set of 13 tools and 3 use-cases. After upload of a fiscal data set, the visualisation tool enables sharing with the defined electorate. To accompany this, there are tools to showcase the performance of the city or municipality and one that helps the electorate to become decision-makers in the budgeting process. “The citizen engagement interface enables users to interact by giving feedback with regard to the provided data, by suggesting different priorities for budgeting, or by discussing a particular transaction,” explains Dr Orlandi. Through database aggregation of existing data, a library of data mining facilitates the discovery of those all-important new trends and patterns with the potential to forecast budget measures. Moreover, users can also create custom pipelines to pinpoint, process and convert data from almost any source into a variety of formats. The large-scale use-cases include stories, tools, evaluations, studies and tutorials. Games within the stories include a ‘Read Recipes for Cooking Budgets’. Forty recipes include the fake business card, the secret funds and the ‘Good Ol’ Bribe. Imaginative and entertaining, each story outlines how a scam can be accomplished, pointers to look out for and real-life examples. Extensive trials Europe-wide lead to client cities Tests using the OBEU toolbox and solutions in Bonn, Paris and Thessaloniki led to extensive evaluation reports and implementations around Europe. All three cities plan to further implement the OBEU tools in their contexts. Individual partners have already rolled out the tools in the first client cities. Project partners implemented the different OBEU toolboxes and solutions within their expertise and geographical locations. “To this end, OBEU partners will establish a community group which is not legally binding but will maintain, advocate and disseminate the project’s results and innovative value proposition.” A great boost for public administration Managers and decision-makers will be able to easily deploy and use financial transparency applications at low cost and customised according to their needs. OBEU stands to make a great impact on the work currently conducted by public administrations and on the respective public perceptions by rendering feasible storage and management of large quantities of budget/spending data. In parallel, this can be done while maintaining the ability to work with multiple, distributed and heterogeneous financial transparency data sets and to extract new usable knowledge from large financial data. According to the project, this will lead to the establishment of an ecosystem consisting of applications and services based on financial data related to public administrations. Summarising the overall positive effects of the OBEU project, Dr Orlandi points out: “This is the first time that a comprehensive and open platform has been developed to deal with the entire budget life cycle. OBEU impacts a wide range of stakeholders by motivating public administrations to publish their data and enable citizens and organisations to collaborate in generating a more transparent administration.”

Keywords, OBEU, budget, platform, administration, toolbox

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