The Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP)

In 2007, a year after the US government mandated the creation of its federal spending website, the state of Missouri developed its own portal, MAP, to make clear to citizens how and where their state’s money was being spent. In its first year it received 14 million hits from users, and is now a permanent part of Missouri’s open data framework.

The challenge

In the 2000s, as digital technology advanced, there was a growing movement towards increasing transparency and accountability in government by requiring that budget and financial information be made available to the public online. “In September 2006, Congress enacted the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act to create a publicly searchable website (then www.federalspending.gov, now www.usaspending.gov) for all federal contracts and grants.” [1]

This desire for openness was particularly strong in Missouri, where, “each year Missourians pay more than USD3,500 per capita in state and local taxes, according to the nonpartisan educational organisation the Tax Foundation.” [2]

The initiative

In 2007, Missouri’s governor, Matt Blunt, “commissioned the Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP) website as part of his ongoing efforts to capitalise on emerging technologies to improve state services and provide more information to Missouri's citizens”. [3]

He authorised the Missouri site through an executive order in July 2007 principally as an initiative that would provide citizens with data about the State of Missouri’s spending. “The first phase of the MAP project, the expenditure module, started on 1 May 2007 and the website was released into production on 30 June 2007. The website became available to the public on 11 July 2007.” [4]

The public impact

It is now easier for citizens to access information regarding state spending by the public. As a direct result of the MAP site, fewer freedom of information requests – to open records of public governmental bodies – are received because interested parties are able to locate the information they need via the portal.

By August 2008, MAP had received 10 million hits from users. It had also won a technology award. “The Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) Team won the Best MIS and IT Team Category for the development of MapYourTaxes.mo.gov [the portal’s URL] at the 2008 American Business Awards.” [5]

What did and didn't work

All cases in our Public Impact Observatory have been evaluated for performance against the elements of our Public Impact Fundamentals.

Legitimacy

Public Confidence Good

At the time of roll-out of the programme, “Republican Governor Matt Blunt, who surprised voters by announcing he will not seek re-election this year, earns good or excellent job approval ratings from 35%. Slightly more voters (36%) now say the governor is doing a poor job”. [7] However, the portal itself was widely used by the public and is still in constant use.

Stakeholder Engagement Good

The Missouri state government is the main stakeholder, having commissioned the portal and passed the relevant executive order. The ITSD project team was strongly engaged, succeeding in designing and delivering the project within two months.

The other main stakeholders are the Missourian citizens who can access the data via the portal and who regularly visit the site.

Political Commitment Good

Governor Blunt and his state administration were strongly in support of the initiative to increase the transparency about state spending. “‘I believe that all Missourians have a right to know where their money goes and how state government is spending their tax dollars. This is why my administration has been committed to making your state government more transparent and accountable with initiatives like the Missouri Accountability Portal,’ Blunt said.” [6]

The commitment to transparency was evident from the ground-breaking nature of the initiative. “‘What Missouri has done is the most extensive, and it got there first,’ said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.” [7]

Policy

Clear Objectives Strong

The objective of the initiative, to increase transparency and accountability in state spending, was maintained throughout as a result of the implementation via the launch of the portal and its continued development (“the data on the MAP site is updated each business day”). [8]

Evidence Weak

MAP was the first state portal to be implemented in the US. It was also one of the first comprehensive searchable databases of financial records based on real-time data. There was no pilot development, so it was a new departure. “The team’s efforts [were] especially notable because during the project, the team needed to learning new skills and establish a new technical environment and new tool-sets.” [9]

Feasibility Good

The funding of the development was achieved through the existing state budget. “Through consolidation and the creation of the Information Technology Services Division, Missouri was able to establish the MAP site within existing state resources.” [10]

The technical feasibility was addressed by the well-resourced state ITSD team (“ITSD is a team of about 1,000 IT professionals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets”) and was developed in a short timescale. [11]

Action

Management Good

The portal was developed by the state’s 1,000-strong ITSD team. It was carefully managed in terms of scheduling (being developed in only two months) and cost (it was created within existing state fiscal resources). “The Project Management Oversight Office (PMO) provides oversight of project managers in evaluation, estimating, and deployment of systems to support functions of the departments where needed.” [12]

The data available at the portal is updated nightly from the state of Missouri's Enterprise Resource Planning tool, which includes state's accounting system.

Measurement Good

The use of the service is monitored through the number of internet hits. By November 2008 there had been 14 million hits on the MAP site. There had also been fewer freedom of information requests because the interested parties were able to locate spending information through MAP (see Public impact above).

Alignment Good

The initiative involved collaboration between the Governor’s Office and government bodies such as Missouri’s ITSD, which developed and maintains MAP. It was aligned with the US federal government’s open data initiatives, such as the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (see The challenge above).

It was also supported by the taxpayer advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform (see Political commitment above), and is heavily used by the citizens of Missouri.