Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt on Tuesday launched a new “transparency website” — ShowMeCheckbook.mo.gov — where residents can get information about government finances.
“Missourians have a right to see how their money is being spent and managed in Jefferson City,” he said in a news release, noting the website is “powered by over 20 million individual data points,” making it one of the most comprehensive state government financial data portals in the country.
“Unfortunately, in the past, the state has not provided adequate tools for accessing information about state finances,” Schmitt said. “Show-Me Checkbook gives greater access to state finances by creating a one-stop-shop for information on state spending, revenue, payroll, debt and cash flow.”
Before the website was developed, he said, state financial data often was difficult to find and analyze.
As a result, Missouri received a D+ grade for financial transparency from the Public Interest Research Group in April.
According to PIRG, websites like Show-Me Checkbook can result in significant cost savings for states that launch them. Texas saved an estimated $163 million as a result of a similar project, and North Carolina credits its website with leading to a comprehensive reform of their state purchasing laws.
Schmitt’s news release included supporting comments from several organizations.
• The Missouri Press Association said: “Before the launch of Show-Me Checkbook, financial transparency tools across state government in Missouri were complicated, outdated and disconnected. This new website gives Missourians easier access to crucial information about how their government operates, which is a step in the right direction toward greater transparency.”
• Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of the government watchdog group Truth in Accounting, said: “Truth in Accounting is pleased to see Treasurer Schmitt’s efforts to create the Show-Me Checkbook, which provides citizens with a transparent and easy-to-understand website to obtain information about their state’s finances.”
• Jim O’Hallaron, president and CEO of the Missouri Society of CPAs, added: “As financial professionals, the Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants knows how important it is for the government to give citizens access to information about how taxpayer dollars are being spent and managed.”
• And the St. Louis-based Show-Me Institute’s director of Government Accountability, Patrick Ishmael, said in a separate statement: “I’m excited that the treasurer views transparency in state government spending as a high priority, and that his office put in the time and effort to make spending information usable to the general public. I hope that all local governments and state taxing jurisdictions will join this spending transparency initiative in the near future, so that every tax dollar that is spent — at both the state and local levels — can be seen by the taxpayers who provided it.”
Show-Me Checkbook draws data from the state government’s accounting system, along with state agency reports.
Schmitt is encouraging citizen watchdogs who find interesting or concerning data trends through the website to contact his office through the submission link that appears on the bottom of each page of the website.