San Mateo County Offers Feature-Packed Open Checkbook App
By Elana Hopman
Many open data programs start with publishing financial data, since it is already well organized and prepped for public viewing. However, few organizations offer an app for citizens to sort through finance data with ease. San Mateo County is boosting transparency and citizen engagement with its new smcOpen Checkbook feature, a companion tool to its existing open data portal. The new program further emphasizes the County’s commitment to data transparency for its citizens.
What Open Checkbook Explorer Offers
From the homepage of the Checkbook Explorer application, financial data is searchable by agency, vendor, or expenditure type. Dividing information into these categories allows visitors to find the data they are interested in more quickly.
Search by Expenditure Type
Salaries and benefits for government employees comprise the largest expenditure category, totaling more than $51 million in San Mateo County. Citizens can drill farther down to see detailed information about how this money is divided up.
Detailed Accounts of Every Expense
Actual check images, along with detailed transaction information, are available for all county expenses exceeding $5,000. “Publishing information about checks over $5,000 ensures that the volume of checks to review is manageable yet also represents a significant portion of taxpayer dollars spent,” says Bob Adler, San Mateo County Controller.
Confidential Info Will Remain Confidential
While most of the data available is meant to provide as much information as possible, some remains confidential to protect certain groups. “Just as important as providing this detail to the public is the requirement to ensure that confidential payments, such as payments to domestic violence victims or to medical/social service providers for patients, are protected,” says Adler.
For more information about San Mateo’s Open Checkbook app, visit the smcOpen Checkbook FAQ page.