New site will allow people to track Ark. spending

New site will allow people to track Ark. spending

Arkansas officials on Wednesday showed off a new government website that will allow people to track by all state agencies, except higher education institutions.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas officials on Wednesday showed off a new government website that will allow people to track by all state agencies, except higher education institutions.

People will be able to look up salaries of a number of state employees on Sunday when the site - Transparency.Arkansas.gov - goes live. Officials expect users to be able to track expenditures and revenue online on July 6.

Such financial information is available under the Freedom of Information Act, but it hasn't been easily accessible online.

Susan Smith, a systems analyst, clicked through parts of the site in front of a group of reporters Wednesday as she explained how it was designed to be user-friendly.

"We're trying to do accounting things for people who are not accountants and technical things for people who are not techies," Smith said.

The website came about after a 2011 law required the state to set up an "online checkbook" so the public could see how much most agencies spend.

It will cover expenditures from all state agencies, except for institutions of higher education, which are on a different accounting system.

The measure was advocated by Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who was elected partly on the promise to set up the site.

Once the site is fully up and running, people will be able to search for expenditures, revenue, employee salaries, contracts, bond indebtedness and payments to cities and counties.

"Everything we have generally been asked about in (a public records request) is there," said office of accounting administrator Paul Louthian.

The General Assembly appropriated more than $550,000 to set up the site and added two jobs to help with the project, Louthian said.

"Those positions have been filled and that money has been spent," he said.

Lawmakers also appropriated about $250,000 for each following year to keep the site up and running, Louthian said.

The website will show expenditures that are drawn from the state's accounting system for the executive branch, along with data from constitutional officers, the highway department and lottery commission, Louthian said.

While the website is new here, the idea of an online checkbook is not. A number of other states have launched similar websites aimed at making government more transparent.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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