Delaware Public Media

Open Checkbook portal seeks to make New Castle Co. government more transparent

Jul 10, 2017

 

New Castle County announced the launch of its Open Checkbook portal Monday. It’s the county’s latest effort to ensure government transparency.


The portal allows for public searches into the county’s spending. Searchable categories include vendor, department, division, expense category, and more.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer says he hopes residents will take advantage of the new tool – and ultimately help him do his job better.

 

“That is – what can we do – what expenditures can we all find that maybe could be scaled down a little bit without county residents seeing an effect to that," Meyer said. "Are there places we can see additional revenues?”

 

Meyer says it also includes a feature called an API.

 

“It’s actually very important," Meyer said. "It enables software developers anywhere in the world to tap into our data – to read and view our data.”

 

He says that means data will be available in real time – and will be more likely to be included in studies about government spending.

 

A county spokesman says some sensitive public safety data may be censored, but the dollar amounts shouldn’t be affected. All county data will be made public through the portal, except for the expenditures of county council members. So far only three council members – Cartier, Smiley and Wiener – have agreed to participate.

 

New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner says he's been working for years to ensure more public access to county government.

 

"With Matt [Meyer] at the helm, we're taking a big leap forward," Weiner said. "It's a process that has had stops and starts and fits during my 21 years."

 

Weiner He started transferring paper documents - both proactively and retroactively - after starting a technology committee. But he thinks even more needs to be done to ensure real time, digital public access to both county council regular and committee meetings.

 

Members of the public said on Monday they'd like to see the county taking an even more proactive approach when it comes to sharing financial figures in discussion that haven't yet been decided on or posted as expenditures.

 

But Open Data Delaware's Ryan Harrington says this portal is a good start: he worked to launch a statewide portal last October, and is glad to see data being shared at the county level as well.

 

“We would absolutely love to see Kent and Sussex County join in and publish their data – or even see cities do it," Harrington said. "We’d love to see the city of Wilmington publish some of their information, or maybe see Dover or Rehoboth or other places join in.”

FY16 data is currently searchable. FY17 data is expected to be available by September, with FY18 data added quarterly. The portal can be found at checkbook.nccde.org.