Missouri's accountability portal has some information that's incomplete or inaccurate. It should also be more accessible and user-friendly.
That's the assessment of the state auditor's office, which recently completed an audit of the program. The portal is designed to let the public track state spending, federal grants, a list of businesses delinquent in paying sales taxes, and other financial information.
The portal has been an important feature for open government in Missouri since it started in 2007. As taxpayers, we deserve to know how our money is being spent. (That said, at least here in town, it seems to be used mostly by people to snoop on the salaries of state employees.)
Auditors found incomplete/inaccurate information, such as $743 million in employee benefits that were not reported. Likewise, some payments between state agencies were not reported.
The portal primarily is administered by the state's Office of Administration. The audit said the portal was given high marks when it first launched, but is now essentially getting rusty because it hasn't kept up with increased expectations of transparency.
For instance, it recommends OA include a summary of the transaction data for employee benefits.
Missouri also doesn't have newer features that some other states have, including checkbook level reporting of individual transactions, data visualizations, data summaries and subtotals, and guided searches.
We agree with another audit recommendation: Reach out to users of the portal to see how they use it and what changes/additions would be helpful.
It also could be beneficial to talk to other states about the features they've added, and whether newer updates have been well-received.
We believe the portal generally has served Missourians well. It's a great way to bring the workings of government — specifically use of taxpayer money — to the people. Following some of the audit's recommendations will help to keep it fresh, informative and easy to use.