Government launches online transparency portal

Cabinet Office Minister Chloë Smith launched early this week a new online tool called Government Interrogating Spending Tool (GIST) which aims to provide citizens an unprecedented view of how taxpayers’ money is spent.
According to the UK Cabinet Office, GIST presents departmental spending data in a clear, intuitive and user-friendly manner, which allows users to monitor and compare spending by different government departments.

Two sets of data are available: the Online System for Central Accounting and Reporting (OSCAR), a financial system used by the UK Treasury that shows government departmental spending; and the Quarterly Data Summary (QDS) which is collected by the Cabinet Office to give managers a snapshot of their current performance and compare this against historical data.

Previously this data was only published in clunky spread sheet form, and the data was complicated to interpret and difficult to compare.

“The government will leave no stone unturned when it comes to dealing with the deficit. Greater transparency can help us identify wasteful spending. That’s why we’re launching a new, easy-to-use, interactive tool that gives the public the chance to compare data in a smart and intuitive format,” the Minister said.

“GIST, for the first time, lays open the government’s books and crucially provides a user-friendly tool with which to analyse the data. This puts meaningful information and analysis at the fingertips of all.” Meanwhile, Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’Alliance, said this effort is a huge step forward for transparency as it breaks down barriers keeping taxpayers in the dark about how their cash is spent.

“GIST makes government spending simple to understand, so it is easier for taxpayers to root out waste. After all, power should be in the hands of those who are footing the bills, not those who are spending other people’s money,” he said.

As GIST is currently in its ‘beta’ form, the Cabinet Office is encouraging feedback from users in order to develop the tool further. Users can direct their queries and feedback at this address: erg.mi@erg.cabinet-office.gov.uk

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