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MUNICIPAL MONEY: MAKING MUNICIPAL BUDGETS MORE ACCESSIBLE

- November 9, 2016 in municipal, Open Spending, South Africa, Spending Stories

Code for South Africa just launched https://municipalmoney.gov.za/, a New Municipal Money project for South Africa, in partnership with the National Treasury. This is a step forward in collaboration with government. Code for South Africa’s goal is to empower citizens to hold their municipal officials to account. The focus of the portal is on municipal financial performance. It is partly built on the babbage engine being used by OpenSpending. Most citizens have a reasonable idea of the basic services municipalities should provide and don’t look too closely at their municipality, its budget and spending until something goes wrong. Even then, finding the necessary information could take many hours of analysing complicated reports, financial statements, and other documents, and would only be possible for someone who has a certain level of financial literacy. But now Municipal Money, a new web-based tool built for National Treasury by Code for South Africa makes this information for all South African municipalities accessible in an easy-to-understand format with a few clicks of a mouse. The site also links to all the original Treasury source documents allowing anyone with the requisite skills to dig deeper. It is searchable by municipality or street address, and it also allows side-by-side comparisons between two municipalities. screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-16-54-12For example, at the end of 2015, the town Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape had a negative cash balance of over R60-million and it was not even able to cover a single day of its day-to-day expenses. In the last four years, the municipality has spent nothing at all on repairs and maintenance, which has heavily affected service delivery in the area. And the total it spent on operating expenses is unknown, as the municipality failed to report to Treasury for the 2014/2015 financial year. This is clearly a municipality in dire straits. Normally, this information would not be easily available to the public. Now, Municipal Money gives citizens the information and ability to hold municipalities to account if they are not performing.  according to a Treasury statement. “The creation of this portal is in response to the commitment made by the Minister in his 2016 Budget speech to launch a data portal that will provide stakeholders with municipal financial information, in order to stimulate citizen involvement in local governance. It is also in line with international best practice, in terms of which governments are increasingly opening up their data to the public and specifically budget data – to promote oversight, transparency and accountability.” Says Greg Kemp, head of technology at Code for South Africa, which built the tool: “National Treasury does a good job of making information available, but there’s a difference between that and understanding the information. The goal is to use technology to bridge that gap. People can see financial performance indicators in a way that is easy to understand, whether they’re good at reading financial information or not.” Monitoring the performance of municipalities should be an ongoing conversation and not just limited to election time, says Kemp.
“Residents often engage with their municipalities at the edges: when paying their rates and when things aren’t working. In reality, municipalities provide an enormous number of services and need to be run effectively. It’s our job as residents to understand what their obligations are and to see if they provide the services up to the level that we’re happy with.”

But analysing information that makes holding municipalities accountable is often left to those with a little more financial nous. Municipal Money removes the middle-man, and encourages all citizens to get involved even providing contact numbers for municipal officials. fruitless-and-wasteful-expenditure Adi Eyal, director of Code for South Africa, says that while local budget information has always been accessible, it’s difficult for most people to understand what it means: do the numbers mean the municipality is doing well or not? Municipal Money is neutral on the state of municipalities, but aims to show whether spending is “good” or “bad” based on defined indicators that have been identified by government. The collaboration between National Treasury and Code for South Africa fits within the context of an Open Government Partnership – an international movement that aims to connect civil society with governments to make them more transparent, says Eyal.
“This is an opportunity to help citizens become more aware, more engaged and more involved in holding local government accountable.”
The website “puts a friendly face to complex data”, presenting it in a way that users can assess what the numbers mean. Technical point of view The data provided by the National Treasury is made available for applications via an online analytical processing (OLAP) interface using the Babbage framework from OpenSpending. Two websites were then built to provide easy access to the data: one aimed at end users with simple municipal profiles and performance indicators; and for those interested in performing deeper analysis, a financial-statement-style view for finding and extracting hard numbers and downloading subsets in CSV and XLS form. The latter also contains documentation for accessing the information structure form to build applications. The full power of the advanced interface proved to be a bit overwhelming at first. Workshops held early in the project with civil society organisations showed that people using the more advanced interface struggled to navigate the data due to its scale and flexibility. This motivated us to present the data in a more structured form. We decided to use the same structure that municipalities use to submit their financial data to treasury. As users familiarise themselves with the data within the structure, they can find what they are looking for more easily. But ultimately, it is about empowering ordinary people with the skills “to better understand the budgeting process for local government, and to participate in the creation of budgets”, says Eyal.

In Cameroon, budget transparency one council at a time

- August 5, 2014 in assoal, budget, budget data package, cameroon, council, Spending Stories, World Bank

How a tool like OpenSpending can help to better channel public spending into basic services in Cameroon. Version française In Cameroon, forest exploitation yield lots of money. Wood is indeed the third largest source of exports of the country, following oil and cocoa. In return, every logging company must pay a tax whose a part goes […]

In Cameroon, budget transparency one council at a time

- August 5, 2014 in assoal, budget, budget data package, cameroon, council, Spending Stories, World Bank

How a tool like OpenSpending can help to better channel public spending into basic services in Cameroon. Version française In Cameroon, forest exploitation yield lots of money. Wood is indeed the third largest source of exports of the country, following oil and cocoa. In return, every logging company must pay a tax whose a part goes […]

Au Cameroun, la transparence budgétaire, village par village

- August 5, 2014 in assoal, banque mondiale, budget, cameroun, commune, Spending Stories, transparence

Comment un outil comme OpenSpending peut aider à mieux orienter les dépenses publiques vers les services de base au Cameroun. English version here Au Cameroun, l’exploitation des forêts rapporte beaucoup d’argent. Le bois est ainsi la troisième source d’exportation du pays, après le pétrole et le cacao. En contrepartie, chaque entreprise du secteur doit s’acquitter […]

Au Cameroun, la transparence budgétaire, village par village

- August 5, 2014 in assoal, banque mondiale, budget, cameroun, commune, Spending Stories, transparence

Comment un outil comme OpenSpending peut aider à mieux orienter les dépenses publiques vers les services de base au Cameroun. English version here Au Cameroun, l’exploitation des forêts rapporte beaucoup d’argent. Le bois est ainsi la troisième source d’exportation du pays, après le pétrole et le cacao. En contrepartie, chaque entreprise du secteur doit s’acquitter […]

Data Expedition: Tax Avoidance and Evasion – 6th June

- May 24, 2013 in Open Spending, School of Data, Spending Stories

Tax expedition

Want to dig deep into tax avoidance and evasion? We have gathered a wide range of data on this sensitive topic and for one afternoon we’ll guide you through some of the key decisions to think about when writing a story on the topics. With tax evasion and tax avoidance currently such a hot topic in the media, it’s crucial that people can understand the difference between the two terms as well as the mechanisms by which they happen.

When: Thursday June 6th – 12:00 BST to 17:00 BST – link to your timezone

We’ll be looking for projects such as:

  • Exploring the tax avoidance schemes used by Apple, Google, Amazon, or Starbucks

  • Looking at data gathered by tax collection authorities and patterns of avoidance that emerge from that dataset

  • Creating a “most wanted” list tax evaders for future research

  • Your project here!

Sign up here for the Data Expedition!

Please note that limited space is available. For more information about the Data Expedition format, we encourage you to read this article.

How can I participate?

To get involved either:

  • Lead a team! (Up to 6 hours) Are you able to help to coordinate a team on the day? This involves, helping your team to understand the options and research that has been conducted and starting a discussion about the choice of story and how to construct a plan for making the story happen. The School of Data team will hold a specific hangout for team leads on Monday 3rd June at 12:00 BST to prepare for Thursday’s activities. Please email schoolofdata [at] okfn.org if you are interested in getting involved.

  • Offer an expert introduction! (Up to one hour) We’re looking for experts who understand the loopholes or tactics used by companies in different countries to offer quick introductions from 5-30 mins long to get the expedition started.

  • Join us as a participant on the day! (3-6 hours) You will need to be prepared to brainstorm ideas with others in your group and ultimately explain your choice of story. There will be two roles you can take on the day – either getting stuck into the data (analyst) or writing (storyteller).

Aims of the expedition

We will aim to give people:
  • A clear understanding of the difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance
  • An key understanding of a few schemes via which people engage in them
  • Perhaps also a few story ideas!

How to get involved

Please make sure you are registered here and that you select “Tax Avoidance/Evasion” in the “I’m Interested in…” section. Please note: you will need to be available for at least 3 hours during the expedition period and spaces will be limited, so preference will be given to those who can definitely commit to the expedition. Spaces will be confirmed shortly before the expedition.

Stay up to date with the latest data expeditions

Want to be informed any time there is a new data expedition? Join the School of Data announcement list to get notifications of the expeditions as soon as they are announced!

IRS: Turn Over A New Leaf, Open Up Data

- May 24, 2013 in Data Journalism, Open Spending, Spending Stories

The following post is co-authored by Stefan Verhulst and Beth Noveck. It is cross-posted from Forbes.com. If you’d like to learn more about tax data, check out our data expedition on tax evasion and avoidance on the 6th June! The core task for Danny Werfel, the new acting commissioner of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), is to repair the agency’s tarnished reputation and achieve greater efficacy and fairness in IRS investigations. Mr. Werfel can show true leadership by restructuring how the IRS handles its tax-exempt enforcement processes.

People filing tax forms at the IRS in 1920.

One of Mr. Werfel’s first actions on the job should be the immediate implementation of the groundbreaking Presidential Executive Order and Open Data policy, released last week, that requires data captured and generated by the government be made available in open, machine-readable formats. Doing so will make the IRS a beacon to other agencies in how to use open data to screen any wrongdoing and strengthen law enforcement. By sharing readily available IRS data on tax-exempt organizations, encouraging Congress to pass a budget proposal that mandates release of all tax-exempt returns in a machine-readable format, and increasing the transparency of its own processes, the agency can begin to turn the page on this scandal and help rebuild trust and partnership between government and its citizens. Every year in the United States approximately 1.5 million registered tax-exempt organizations file a version of the “Form 990” with the IRS and state tax authorities. The 990 collects details on the financial, governance and organizational structure of America’s universities, hospitals, foundations, and charities to the end of ensuring that they are deserving of tax exempt status. We are missing an opportunity to analyze this data so that decisions about whom to investigate can be based on evidence rather than conjecture, on patterns rather than prejudice. Currently, hundreds of thousands of the largest tax-exempt organizations are required to file their returns electronically. The IRS should release this data in bulk as a free database immediately. If the IRS were to make these 990 data available in a form that could be easily downloadable and processed by computer programs for visualization and statistical analysis, researchers could quickly do more extensive, in-depth empirical research to better understand the sector and spot fraud, waste and abuse more systematically. Knowing who runs a nonprofit can help detect fraud. Attorneys General have occasionally found the same person collecting full time salaries from several different nonprofits.

Check out the guide on tax avoidance and evasion from OpenSpending to find out more about how to follow the money.

While the IRS is using robo-audits, catching large evasions still happens mainly by happenstance. With open data, they could be detected, first, through computer analysis. By using technology to expand the regulator’s toolkit, it becomes possible to target limited enforcement resources to where problems really are. The Securities and Exchange Commission has, for instance, developed an improved capacity to detect and prevent insider trading more effectively by making public information computable and easier to mine. In addition, open data creates the means for government and citizens to collaborate on spotting problems. As the adage goes, with many eyes, all bugs are shallow. Similarly, Form 990 requires charities to disclose loans to or from current and former officers. Making these and other transactions that correlate with instances of fraud like these would save government resources at the state and federal levels. With a 990 database, it would also be easier to run queries to understand which executives receive the highest compensation. By combining 990 and other data, such as lobbying data, it might become possible to spot impermissible political activities. President Obama’s 2014 budget calls for requiring all tax exempts to file electronically, but also requires that the IRS makes these already public returns available in a timely, machine-readable format. These data would create a corpus of open, computable information that could be used to understand where nonprofits are providing services and where there are gaps. Enabling more people and organizations to analyze, visualize, and mash up the data, creating a large public community that is interested in the nonprofit sector and can collaborate to find ways to improve it. In sum, the data that the IRS collect about nonprofit organizations present a great opportunity to learn about the sector and make it more effective. Making IRS data open won’t solve every problem; the recent scandal has proven that the IRS must be more transparent about both the information it collects, but also how it manages that information. A commitment on day one to share the data it collects in a machine readable manner would show true leadership by Mr. Werfel and help solidify the Obama administration’s legacy as an open government.
Stefaan G. Verhulst is the Chief Research and Development Officer of the Governance Laboratory @NYU (GovLab) where he is responsible for building a research foundation on how to transform governance using advances in science and technology. Beth Noveck is Founder and Director of the Governance Laboratory. She served in the White House as the first United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and founder of the White House Open Government Initiative (2009-2011). She was appointed senior advisor for Open Government to the UK Prime Minister David Cameron. She is the author of “Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger and Citizens More Powerful.”

Data Expeditions at MozFest

- November 14, 2012 in Featured, School of Data, Spending Stories, Workshop

Expeditions into the Data Landscape: the School of Data goes to #MozFest. Find out what happened at MozFest – and see the tools and data sets to recreate it yourself! Saturday morning at MozFest. A sold out building, full of a thousand hackers, builders, makers, geeks, journalists, thinkers and more. And right at the top on the 9th floor? Three ‘data sherpers’ in sparkly cloaks…

Data Expeditions

The concept behind the ‘Data Expeditions’ run by the School of Data at this year’s MozFest was simple. Based on the ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ role-playing game, data explorers would tackle real world problems together, developing their data wrangling skills in the process. As a first step, explorers were asked to rate their abilities. Can you tell a story? analyse data? code? tweet? draw? The emphasis was on ‘doing’, but not in any narrow sense – often, it’s the data newbie asking a ‘stupid question’ that sets the team on a fresh track, and becomes the biggest contribution of the day. Next came the quests. Three Data Sherpas (still sparkling) set out three missions: delving into the data surrounding extractive industries and oil mines; exploring possible causes for a dramatic plummet in life expectancy in central Africa; and burrowing into the grimy world of tax havens. The explorers divided, the sherpers guided – and the quests began!

Quest 1: Mining the Mines

The discovery of oil or natural resources in a country and subsequent mining and extraction activities have enormous economic and political significance. While some countries benefit off their natural wealth, others fall prey to corruption and exploitation. Approaching this topic we did not have a clear story we intended to investigate – instead the discussion in the first part of our session focussed on how to approach such a complex domain. After some discussion (luckily, the large team included two experts from the area and an investigative reporter), three themes areas emerged that we then decided to further dig into in smaller team:
  • One team worked on possible ways to combine company ownership information, conference documentation and social network data to generate a picture of the network of actors, companies and interests behind the extractive industry.

  • A second team decided to use a commercial database to explore the ownership of a single mine in the DRC. Where did money come from and who are the owners? A quick set of post-its on our data expeditions map served as a visualization of the setup.

  • Mapping was also the topic of the third group, which aimed to contrast overall revenue from extractives to economic, political and social indicators, such as the Corruption Perceptions Index. Using CartoDB, the group was able to easily generate a map that displayed country-by-country comparisons of the resulting ratios.

Quest 2: A Call to Investigate an African Crisis

In true Dungeons & Dragons style, Data Sherper Michael got a call from some dwarves in Middle Earth, who had heard about a sudden drop in life expectancy in central Africa. They didn’t know the details, but believed that the World Bank gnomes might have some facts which could shed some light on the mystery. Cue the explorers in quest group two, who worked together throughout (kudos to such a large number!) to solve the mystery. After initial musings about a civil war, the team discovered a striking correlation between the increasing prevalence of HIV and plummeting life expectancies. By cross-referencing with other data sets, the team also noticed some interesting connections around health expenditure, public statements issued by politicians, and quirkier topics such as the target audience of condom marketing. More work would need to be done to really make a claim about causality, but there was certainly plenty to mull over.

Quest 3: Tax Islands

This was an experiment in providing a group with a chain of possible investigations (a map for the landscape) and then allowing a storyteller to choose their own expedition path throuh the data. The group divided into two teams to explore the possible stories (routes) you might want to take through tax avoidance and evasion. The first group chose to show how an online book retailer might avoid tax, starting at the point of sale and tracing the money all the way through to the final countries in which tax was paid (and at what rate!). The second group wanted to show the effects of changes in tax laws, and looked at where large companies paid their tax and how they ‘moved’ as tax breaks changed. The session was a big success. People really engaged with the issue, and the tax team benefitted from some particularly valuable insights from a few accountants who had direct experience of working on corporation tax for large companies. The format really worked (unless it was the spangly cloaks!) and our data expedition troops stayed at their desks until the very end.

Next steps: Online Mountaineering

The Data Expeditions format was somewhat experimental. We had no idea if the concept would work, but our inkling was that the only way to really teach data skills was to confront people with a mountain. By forging your own path (with the occassional leg-up or guidance from a sherper!), data explorers can pinpoint the extra skills they need to develop in order to scale new obstacles, map their own journey and ultimately to tell their own story. The answer may be at the top, but there are multiple routes to the summit – and each will offer a fresh view over the landscape. Because the session was so successful, we are keen to repeat the Data Expeditions formula. Our next challenges will be:
  • To work out how to recreate this social dynamic online
  • To continue to follow up on these threads, questions and leads
To do this, we need your help!
  • Were you at the Data Expeditions session at MozFest? Write a short summary of what your team did and what you learned and send it to schoolofdata[@]okfn.org – we’d love to feature it on our blog!
  • Keen to run your own Data Expeditions session? Please do! You can find some of the resources we used below. Additionally, see the ‘Data Expeditions Toolkit’ below – sign-up to the mailing list and drop us a line at schoolofdata [@] okfn.org to find out more.
  • Know of more resources? Drop a line to via the mailing list or schoolofdata [@] okfn.org to let us know!

Recreate it yourself!

Use the Expeditions Toolkit

  1. Print out a copy of the character sheet (front, back) for all of the people participating
  2. Think of your topic areas and devise a suitably ridiculous name for your expedition. (Bonus points for ridiculous puns revolving around online gaming).
  3. Make some role descriptions cards. For each of the possible roles outlined in the character sheets outline tasks which people with that skillset could perform. We recommend at least 3 possible levels.
  4. Buy yourself a cape (optional)
  5. Get rolling – hand out your role desciption sheets, get people to fill in the radar plot and assign roles. Allow people to also specify a role that they are not so strong in, but which they would like to know more about, you can buddy them up with someone who is more advanced in those skills and encourage them to watch closely and ask lots of questions.
  6. Talk everyone through the notion of the expedition and explain their roles to them. Make it clear the aim is to produce something at the end of the session, that could be a blog post, a visualisation or a load of post-it leads – don’t specify, let them be as creative as possible!
  7. Start the storytellers off thinking of a question and get them talking to the scouts and analysts about where they might find that data. You’ll need lots of post it notes.
  8. Get the designers and engineers listening in to the conversations happening and working out how it might be possible to present the information, and feed back into the discussion
  9. One you’ve got a question, set the scouts and the analysts loose on finding and analysing the data.
  10. Get everyone to document their expedition, the avenues they tried which failed for some reason (the path was blocked), what worked, what data-sources the found and what tools they used. These are all useful for generating leads which people could follow up on afterwards and teaching people how a real data-campaign may be run.
We did ours in 3 hours – you may like to try doing it for longer, however make sure your session is short enough to have people’s full attention for the duration of the session and keep energy high. That’s it. Good luck noble sherpas.

Resources that we used:

Data Sources

Tools & Resources

UK Departmental Government Spending – Improving the Quality of Reporting

- September 13, 2012 in DGU, Featured, Open Spending, Releases, Spending Stories

Continuing in their mission to make spending data more accessible and comprehensible, the Spending Stories team and the team of Data.Gov.Uk are releasing a reporting tool today that will help journalists and analysts to pick the freshest and best departmental spending data to work with when exploring the UK central government expenditure.

Spending data is juicy for journalists – why does it get neglected?

Many reasons. One key one is that the shelf-life of a spending dataset is pretty short from a journalist’s point of view, if they have to wait 6 months or even a year for spending data they need for a story to be released, then chances are – the sniff of the story they were wanting to write will probably have gone stale. Journalists, campaigners and activists need access to well-structured, machine readable and timely data from national as well as sub-national administrations. At OpenSpending, we’re often contacted by journalists with story ideas, or they approach us with a lead. The stumbling stone for them is either lack of information, or worse data that they can’t use because they are not sure of its completeness. The problem is thus the one of trees falling in a wood: If a transaction is missing from a list – does that mean there was no transaction for that amount on that date, or does it mean that the transaction simply was not reported? These distinctions are important for anyone trying to understand the data – and up to now they have been pretty tricky to answer. As an attempt to make this a little easier, today, we announce the availability of an automatic reporting tool for spending data (available both on data.gov.uk and on OpenSpending), the result of a collaboration between data.gov.uk and us in order to increase the visibility of the spend data and to increase the ease of browsing the substantial volume of datasets that make up the reporting of Government expenditure in data.gov.uk. The tool lists departments registered as data publishers on data.gov.uk and details how precisely they have followed the HM Treasury reporting guidelines. It will also make the whole of the reported data available for search and analysis both on data.gov.uk and on the OpenSpending site. The tool is useful to those both using the data, and those within government in assuring that departments are reporting on time. It helps to check:
  1. Quality of the data (i.e. adherence to HMT reporting guidelines, well-structured data)
  2. Status of reporting (i.e. how complete the reports are or if there is a reporting period missing)

Why was this possible?

Having all of these datasets organised under a single catalogue at Data.Gov.UK  in simple spreadsheet format combined with the Data.gov.uk team’s work in making the necessary metadata available enabled the OpenSpending team to create an extraction system to be set up to clean the data on a regular basis. The team then cleaned over 6000 column names to add compliance with HMT guidance.

How does it work?

The report generator then highlights in red departments who are registered as a publisher on Data.gov.uk but have failed to publish any information on their spending, in yellow those who have published data which cannot be interpreted as spending data (e.g. PDF format or not complying with the template provided by HMT) and green those departments whose records have been updated as regularly as demanded as per the publication requirements (latest data must have been published as recently as a month ago). The first stage of this release deals with central departments, who are obliged to report all spending over 25,000 GBP. Subsequent stages to follow soon after will monitor local councils and other governmental bodies, which have different reporting requirements. The interface will be useful both inside and out of government, to ensure transparency regulations are met and to better understand where gaps in data may alter the completeness of the picture offered by government data. Interested in more regular updates from the Spending Stories team? Join the discussion via the OpenSpending mailing list.

How Spending Stories Fact Checks Big Brother, the Wiretappers’ Ball

- February 27, 2012 in Open Spending, Spending Stories, surveillance

This piece was co-written with Eric King of Privacy International and comes as Privacy International launches a huge new data release about companies selling surveillance technologies. It is cross-posted on the MediaShift PBS IDEA LAB and the OpenSpending blog. Today, the global surveillance industry is estimated at around $5 billion a year. But which companies are selling? Which governments are buying? And why should we care? We show how the OpenSpending platform can be used to speed up fact checking, showing which of these companies have government contracts, and, most interestingly, with which departments…

The Background

Big Brother is now indisputably big business, yet until recently the international trade in surveillance technologies remained largely under the radar of regulators and civil society. Buyers and suppliers meet, mingle and transact at secretive trade conferences around the world, and the details of their dealings are often shielded from public scrutiny by the ubiquitous defence of ‘national security’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this environment has bred a widespread disregard for ethics and a culture in which the single-minded pursuit of profit is commonplace. For years, European and American companies have been quietly selling surveillance equipment and software to dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa – products that have allowed these regimes to maintain a stranglehold over free expression, smother the flames of political dissent and target individuals for arrest, torture and execution. They include devices that intercept mobile phone calls and text messages in real time on a mass scale, malware and spyware that gives the purchaser complete control over a target’s computer and trojans that allow the camera and microphone on a laptop or mobile phone to be remotely switched on and operated. These technologies are also being bought by Western law enforcement, including small police departments in which the ability of officers to understand the legal parameters, levels of accuracy and limits of acceptability is highly questionable. The data that has just been released on the Privacy International Website included the following:
  1. An updated list of companies selling surveillance technology, and
  2. Naming all the government agencies attending an international surveillance trade show known as the wiretappers ball.
Some names are predictable enough: the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the UK Serious Organized Crime Agency and Interpol, for example. The presence of others is deeply disturbing: the national security agencies of Bahrain and Yemen, the embassies of Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Kenyan intelligence agency, to name but a few. A few are downright baffling, like the US department of Commerce or the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Clark County School District Police Department. Now, with the aid of OpenSpending, anyone can cross reference which contracts these companies hold with governments around the world. The investigation continues…

Using OpenSpending to speed up fact-checking

Privacy International approached the Spending Stories team to ask for a search widget to be able to search across all of the government spending datasets for contracts held between governments and these companies (until this point, it had only been possible to search one database at a time). The Spending Browser is now live at http://opendatalabs.org/spendbrowser. And, as the URLs correspond to the queries, individual searches can be passed on for further examination and, importantly, embedded in articles directly. Try it yourself against the list of companies listed in the Surveillance Section of the Privacy International Site (Just enter a company e.g. ‘Endace Accelerated’ into the search bar). The Spending Browser will become increasingly more powerful as ever more data is loaded into the system. Want to help make this tool even more powerful? Get involved and help to build up the data bank.

Coverage

You can read more about the background to these stories on the Privacy International Site and recent coverage by the International Media: