A New York City Transparency Project Will Open-Source a Look Inside the City's Checkbook

Nick Judd | techPresident | February 9, 2012

The office of the New York City Comptroller has begun coding up a revamp to a site that already gives a comprehensive look, updated daily, at nearly every check issued by the city. For the first time, the city will also offer software developers direct, programmatic access to a comprehensive trove of information about New York's fiscal health. And within a few weeks after the updated site launches, city officials say, the source code will be released online under an open-source license.

Several states and cities around the country have started releasing their check registers online. But the New York website, called Checkbook NYC and launched in 2010, is about to get a massive upgrade that promises a new level of access to information. A new version of the site expected to launch this year will grant access to detailed information about the contracts related to each individual payment, city vendors and the contracts they're working on, and how payments made to date stack up against each agency's budget. The site will also include information about incoming revenues and should also play host to a collection of audits, budget reports and other analysis produced by the network of entities responsible for poring over the city's finances.

"Our goal is to make New York City the most financially transparent government in the United States," said Ari Hoffnung, who is now the city's deputy comptroller for public affairs but had been involved in launching the original Checkbook project while working in another part of the Comptroller's office.

Open-sourcing the project was "very interesting" to the comptroller, Hoffnung said, as a way to "end predatory vendor lock-in" and to create something that other cities might be willing to share the cost of maintaining and improving...