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Openbudgets.eu: the new platform for financial transparency in Europe

- September 7, 2017 in open budget, open budget data, open budgets, Open Fiscal Data, Open Spending

Today, OpenBudgets officially launches its fiscal transparency platform. Using
OpenBudgets.eu journalists, civil servants, and data scientists can process, analyse, and explore the nature and relevance of fiscal data.
The platform offers a toolbox to everyone who wants to upload, visualise and analyse fiscal data. From easy to use visualisations and high level analytics to fun games and accessible explanations of public budgeting and corruption practices along with
participatory budgeting tools, it caters to the needs of journalists, activists, policy makers and civil servants alike. The first successful implementations and projects have been developed in Thessaloniki, Paris, and Bonn, where civil society organisations and civil servants have together built budget visualisation for the general public.The cooperation between IT and administration resulted in 3 local instances of OpenBudgets.eu, setting the example for future implementations around Europe. On the EU level, the project has campaigned for transparency in MEP expenses and better quality data on the European subsidies. The OpenBudgets.eu project
subsidystories has uncovered how almost 300 billion in EU subsidies is spent. The MEP expenses campaign has led to the President of the European Parliament committing to introduce concrete proposals for reform of the MEPs’ allowance scheme by the end of the year. Finally, the project has created tailor-made tools for journalists as our research has shown that there was a lack of contextual knowledge and knowledge on the basics of accounting. ‘Cooking budgets’presents the basics of accounting in a satirical website, and the successful game ‘The good, the bad and the accountant’ simulates the struggle of a civil servant to retain its integrity. The three approaches and audiences to public budgeting have resulted in a holistic platform which tailors to the wider public who wants to have more insights in their local, regional, national and even EU budgets. With the launch of OpenBudgets.eu the field of financial transparency in Europe is enriched by new tools, data, games and research for journalists, civil society organisations and civil servants alike, resulting in a valuable resource for a broad target audience. OpenBudgets.eu has received funding from the European Union’s H2020 EU research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 645833 and is implemented by an international consortium of nine partners (including Open Knowledge International and Open Knowledge Foundation Germany) under the coordination of Fraunhofer IAIS.

New Report: “Open Budget Data: Mapping the Landscape”

- September 2, 2015 in digital methods, Featured, financial transparency, issue mapping, open budget data, Open Data, Open Government Data, Policy, Public Money, Releases, research

We’re pleased to announce a new report, “Open Budget Data: Mapping the Landscape” undertaken as a collaboration between Open Knowledge, the Global Initiative for Financial Transparency and the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam. The report offers an unprecedented empirical mapping and analysis of the emerging issue of open budget data, which has appeared as ideals from the open data movement have begun to gain traction amongst advocates and practitioners of financial transparency. In the report we chart the definitions, best practices, actors, issues and initiatives associated with the emerging issue of open budget data in different forms of digital media to navigate this developing field and to identify trends, gaps and opportunities for supporting it. In doing so, our objective is to enable practitioners – in particular civil society organisations, intergovernmental organisations, governments, multilaterals and funders – to navigate this developing field and to identify trends, gaps and opportunities for supporting it. How public money is collected and distributed is one of the most pressing political questions of our time, influencing the health, well-being and prospects of billions of people. Decisions about fiscal policy affect everyone-determining everything from the resourcing of essential public services, to the capacity of public institutions to take action on global challenges such as poverty, inequality or climate change. Digital technologies have the potential to transform the way that information about public money is organised, circulated and utilised in society, which in turn could shape the character of public debate, democratic engagement, governmental accountability and public participation in decision-making about public funds. Data could play a vital role in tackling the democratic deficit in fiscal policy and in supporting better outcomes for citizens. The report includes the following recommendations:
  1. CSOs, IGOs, multilaterals and governments should undertake further work to identify, engage with and map the interests of a broader range of civil society actors whose work might benefit from open fiscal data, in order to inform data release priorities and data standards work. Stronger feedback loops should be established between the contexts of data production and its various contexts of usage in civil society – particularly in journalism and in advocacy.

  2. Governments, IGOs and funders should support pilot projects undertaken by CSOs and/or media organisations in order to further explore the role of data in the democratisation of fiscal policy – especially in relation to areas which appear to have been comparatively under-explored in this field, such as tax distribution and tax base erosion, or tracking money through from revenues to results.

  3. Governments should work to make data “citizen readable” as well as “machine readable”, and should take steps to ensure that information about flows of public money and the institutional processes around them are accessible to non-specialist audiences – including through documentation, media, events and guidance materials. This is a critical step towards the greater democratisation and accountability of fiscal policy.

  4. Further research should be undertaken to explore the potential implications and impacts of opening up information about public finance which is currently not routinely disclosed, such as more detailed data about tax revenues – as well as measures needed to protect the personal privacy of individuals.

  5. CSOs, IGOs, multilaterals and governments should work together to promote and adopt consistent definitions of open budget data, open spending data and open fiscal data in order to establish the legal and technical openness of public information about public money as a global norm in financial transparency.

Just Released: “Where Does Europe’s Money Go? A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources”

- July 2, 2015 in Data Journalism, eu, European Union, Featured, financial transparency, Follow the Money, open budget data, Open Fiscal Data, Open Knowledge, Open Spending, Policy, research, Where Does My Money Go

The EU has committed to spending €959,988 billion between 2014 and 2020. This money is disbursed through over 80 funds and programmes that are managed by over 100 different authorities. Where does this money come from? How is it allocated? And how is it spent? Today we are delighted to announce the release of “Where Does Europe’s Money Go? A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources”, which aims to help civil society groups, journalists and others to navigate the vast landscape of documents and datasets in order to “follow the money” in the EU. The guide also suggests steps that institutions should take in order to enable greater democratic oversight of EU public finances. It was undertaken by Open Knowledge with support from the Adessium Foundation.
Where Does Europe's Money Go?
As we have seen from projects like Farm Subsidy and journalistic collaborations around the EU Structural Funds it can be very difficult and time-consuming to put together all of the different pieces needed to understand flows of EU money. Groups of journalists on these projects have spent many months requesting, scraping, cleaning and assembling data to get an overview of just a handful of the many different funds and programmes through which EU money is spent. The analysis of this data has led to many dozens of news stories, and in some cases even criminal investigations. Better data, documentation, advocacy and journalism around EU public money is vital to addressing the “democratic deficit” in EU fiscal policy. To this end, we make the following recommendations to EU institutions and civil society organisations:
  1. Establish a single central point of reference for data and documents about EU revenue, budgeting and expenditure and ensure all the information is up to date at this domain (e.g. at a website such as ec.europa.eu/budget). At the same time, ensure all EU budget data are available from the EU open data portal as open data.
  2. Create an open dataset with key details about each EU fund, including name of the fund, heading, policy, type of management, implementing authorities, link to information on beneficiaries, link to legal basis in Eur-Lex and link to regulation in Eur-Lex.
  3. Extend the Financial Transparency System to all EU funds by integrating or federating detailed data expenditures from Members States, non-EU Members and international organisations. Data on beneficiaries should include, when relevant, a unique European identifier of company, and when the project is co-financed, the exact amount of EU funding received and the total amount of the project.
  4. Clarify and harmonise the legal framework regarding transparency rules for the beneficiaries of EU funds.
  5. Support and strengthen funding for civil society groups and journalists working on EU public finances.
  6. Conduct a more detailed assessment of beneficiary data availability for all EU funds and for all implementing authorities – e.g., through a dedicated “open data audit”.
  7. Build a stronger central base of evidence about the uses and users of EU fiscal data – including data projects, investigative journalism projects and data users in the media and civil society.
Our intention is that the material in this report will become a living resource that we can continue to expand and update. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. If you are interested in learning more about Open Knowledge’s other initiatives around open data and financial transparency you can explore the Where Does My Money Go? project, the OpenSpending project, read our other previous guides and reports or join the Follow the Money network. Where Does Europe’s Money Go - A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources

New research project to map the impact of open budget data

- March 4, 2015 in Featured, financial transparency, Follow the Money, open budget data, open budgets, Open Data, Open Spending, Policy, research

I’m pleased to announce a new research project to examine the impact of open budget data, undertaken as a collaboration between Open Knowledge and the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam, supported by the Global Initiative for Financial Transparency (GIFT). The project will include an empirical mapping of who is active around open budget data around the world, and what the main issues, opportunities and challenges are according to different actors. Drawing on this mapping it will provide a review of the various definitions and conceptions of open budget data, arguments for why it matters, best practises for publication and engagement, as well as applications and outcomes in different countries around the world. As well as drawing on Open Knowledge’s extensive experience and expertise around open budget data (through projects such as Open Spending), it will utilise innovative tools and methods developed at the University of Amsterdam to harness evidence from the web, social media and collections of documents to inform and enrich our analysis. As part of this project we’re launching a collaborative bibliography of existing research and literature on open budget data and associated topics which we hope will become a useful resource for other organisations, advocates, policy-makers, and researchers working in this area. If you have suggestions for items to add, please do get in touch. This project follows on from other research projects we’ve conducted around this area – including on data standards for fiscal transparency, on technology for transparent and accountable public finance, and on mapping the open spending community.
Financial transparency field network with the Issuecrawler tool based on hyperlink analysis starting from members of Financial Transparency Coalition, 12th January 2015. Open Knowledge and Digital Methods Initiative.

Financial transparency field network with the Issuecrawler tool based on hyperlink analysis starting from members of Financial Transparency Coalition, 12th January 2015. Open Knowledge and Digital Methods Initiative.