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June 17, 2008

DiNapoli Announces Open Book New York

New Web site Gives Public Unprecedented Access to State Spending

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State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today launched Open Book New York, a new, easy-to-use Web site providing the public access to how state government is spending tax dollars. The site contains searchable databases of spending by 113 state agencies and more than 60,000 state contracts.

“For too long, Albany did business behind closed doors,” DiNapoli said. “Today, we’re opening the doors and opening the books. Open Book New York gives the public a roadmap to follow their tax dollars and brings more accountability to state spending. This is the closest to real-time financial tracking the state has ever seen. When everyone can see where the money goes, nothing can be hidden.

“And this is just the first step. There’s a lot more to come. We’re going to give the public even greater access to how government, public authorities and local governments spend money and how they operate. We’re looking for full transparency. We’re going to open all the books.”

DiNapoli announced the Open Book New York initiative as part of his reforms to open up government for the average New Yorker. The Web site unveiled today contains two search tools that allow tracking of more than 60,000 active State contracts with real-time information on how much has been spent on a contract to date, as well as spending for 113 State agencies and public authorities. The public can identify who is doing business with the State and how much State agencies spend on expenses such as travel, employee salaries and consultants.

Open Book New York contains active state contracts and contract amendments that state agencies have with businesses, not-for-profit organizations and other governmental entities. The contracts search tool is updated nightly and contains active contracts going back 10 years. The database can be searched by agency, company, timeframe, dollar amount and more.  

Spending for State agencies and public authorities includes 11 major spending categories, such as contractual services, travel, equipment, grants, salaries and wages, employee benefits, and supplies and materials. The State agency spending tool is updated quarterly.

Open Book New York is designed to be easy-to-use for experienced government insiders and average citizens. The site contains glossaries that define all terms and frequently asked questions to help the end-user find an answer quickly. The public can also call a help desk or send an e-mail to get questions answered. All the available data can be loaded as a PDF file or an Excel spreadsheet.

Legislative leaders, civic organizations and government watchdogs praised DiNapoli’s initiative as an innovative way to share information with taxpayers.

“Taxpayers have a right to see how and where their hard-earned dollars are spent,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “I thank Comptroller DiNapoli for taking a major step toward transparency in state spending, and encourage residents to use Open Book New York to become familiar with state agencies and contracts. At a time when I have called for across-the-board government spending cuts, it is vital that the people of the state take an active role in understanding the financial decisions made on their behalf.”

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said “I applaud Comptroller DiNapoli for this initiative to bring taxpayers more information and increase government accountability. This new Web site mirrors a Senate Majority bill, passed last week, that would have established a similar site to provide taxpayers with more information on government spending and performance. With millions of middle class families tightening their belts to overcome tough economic times, taxpayers have every right to demand that their government operates as openly and efficiently as possible.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said “The Assembly has long supported measures to increase government transparency and accountability. Open Book NY will do just that by giving the public easy internet-based access to information regarding state spending and contacts, and I commend Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for launching this important initiative.”

“The State Comptroller's new Open Book New York website is another step forward for openness in government in New York State. Comptroller DiNapoli’s Open Book now joins Attorney General Cuomo’s Project Sunlight as a promising tool for making state government more accountable for how it spends our tax dollars. While it is just a start, Open Book New York creates a solid framework for sharing much more detailed information in the future,” said E.J. McMahon, director, Empire Center for New York State Policy.

“The Comptroller has made it easier for New Yorkers to examine state spending and approved contracts. It's a good first step toward the ultimate goal of opening the books on all state spending,” said Blair Horner, NYPIRG's legislative director.

Open Book New York is an important step forward in making the state’s finances transparent for taxpayers,” said Robert B. Ward, deputy director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. “The more New Yorkers know about state expenditures, the better they can assess the fiscal decisions made on their behalf.”

Those wishing to view the June 17th webcast launching the Open Book New York web site should log on to:

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