So at the last OKCON a month or so ago, I sat down with some of the good people from Where Does My Money Go to discuss in some general principles for presenting government finances as data, to allow it to be properly analysed, combined with other data, and follow the flow of money to and from all branches of government, central and local. Now, the first draft has now been published.
The actual report is here. The bullet point summary (from that page) is:
- Users will be interested in the core information held in the accounts system Ã¢â‚¬â€œ such as expenditure code, amount paid, transaction date, beneficiary, and payment reference number. The expenditure code has to be explained and steps taken to help users identify the beneficiary
- As a first stage, publish the raw data and any lookup table needed to interpret it in a spreadsheet as a CSV or XML file as soon as possible. This should be put on the councilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s website as a document for anyone to download. Or even published in a service such as Google Docs
- There is not yet a national approach for publishing local authority expenditure data. This should not stop publication of data in its raw, machine-readable form. Observing such raw data being used is the only route to a national approach, should one be required
- Publishing raw data will allow the panel and others to assess how that data could/should be presented to users. Sight of the data is worth a hundred meetings. Members of the panel will study the data, take part in the discussion and revise this advice.
- As a second stage, informed by the discussion, the panel and users can then give feedback about publishing data (RDF, CSV, etc) in a way that can be consistent across all local authorities involving structured, regularly updated data published on the Web using open standards.