Blog – why doesn’t the UK have an equivalent?


When President Obama said that his trillion dollar stimulus spending plan would be transparent, an awful lot of people were sceptical. I was one of them. If he can’t get the healthcare reform needed by millions of people pushed through Congress, how can he deliver clarity on how – and where – a trillion dollars is being spent?

But on Monday, – a website that does just this – was relaunched. Today’s home page announces 35,449 projects that are valued at $107.82 Billion. Now, $107,820,000,000 is no small change, so how can the award of this much cash be transparent?

That’s where the fun starts. Clicking on any area in this map will reveal how much has been awarded to your chosen state:

Map of the USA

Clicking on California I am told there are 2,586 projects with a total value of $13,687,282,776. That’s right – the figures are down to the last dollar. But California is a big state, so how do I know exactly where the money is going within it?

In answer, I am presented with the map below, which shows where the funding has been allocated and how much is being spent:

Map of California

San Francisco is one of my favourite places in the world, so I decide to see what is going on there. I click on the relevant county and I am presented with this table:

Table of San Francisco projects

I can now see details of every one of the 322 projects that are running in the San Francisco area. I filter by city and specify San Francisco. There are 293 projects running in the city and I can pick any one and see how much is being spent. So I click ‘order by cost descending’ and I am shown this:

Federal Building Project

Fantastic! I can see that there will be $100,000,000 spent renovating the Federal United Nations Plaza and I can even comment on it. Of course, this is a large amount of money – but what about the smaller projects? Are they as easy to find?

I had a look for something smaller. It was just as simple.

Smaller project's details

In an instant I found a project for $7,856.

This is transparency of a kind I have never seen and, whilst it’s not as though Obama has opened up the Defense budgets, it’s impressive that you can drill down to such a level of detail.

I clicked on the smaller project, and found the following.

Fill project details

Superb. And it should make us start asking some questions in the UK. Such as where our taxes are being spent. Or where our money actually goes.

If America can deliver something like this why can’t the UK? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see exactly what projects were being worked on by local authorities? And by being allowed to comment on them, it would introduce a layer of democracy that we simply don’t have at the moment. – I love it. So how about it Mr Brown? We could do with a bit of transparency at the moment…

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