Online Transparency Efforts Coming Soon
Government transparency may be improved in Pennsylvania with the launch of PennWATCH, an online records database, in December.
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Realizing the fruits of Pennsylvania’s labor toward greater transparency is just weeks away.
The state plans Dec. 20 to launch PennWATCH, an online database displaying financial information for state spending and investments, after about a year and a half of planning.
Data will include expenditure descriptions, funding amounts, employee titles and salaries — much of the kind of information now accessed through Right-to-Know requests.
Officials point to the database as a milestone for government transparency.
Gov. Tom Corbett praised PennWATCH while speaking about what he considered accomplishments in the first half of his term.
PennWATCH was created through legislation in the summer of 2011.
“You’re going to be able to see just about everything you’re legally allowed to see,” Corbett said of the program.
The Office of Administration has handled the site’s construction. Dan Egan, press secretary for the office, said it is premature to determine the final cost of PennWATCH, since more additions are required by law by the end of 2014. But it is primarily staff time for existing employees, he said.
The format is unclear. The last update on the project was given in October 2011.
Records related to the state court system will be included on the site and appear the same to users. But approval to release those records came about a bit differently — the state’s Supreme Court issued an order signing off on the record’s access as a way to comply with PennWATCH without infiltrating separation of powers clauses.
Those records will be available Dec. 17, according to the court, though users will be able to access them through PennWATCH, the same as other agencies.
“The expansion of the fiscal disclosure policy is consistent with the principles of the recently enacted PennWATCH Act, balanced with the Supreme Court’s constitutional authority to independently administer the judicial branch,” said the court’s release.
Jim Koval, director of communications for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, said no additional staff will be hired to run the court’s section of site. The court system already uploads contract information, and the new additions will continue to be managed by existing information technology staff, Koval said.