LITTLE ROCK — A portion of the state's new online checkbook will debut this weekend, state officials said Wednesday.
LITTLE ROCK — A portion of the state’s new online checkbook will debut this weekend, state officials said Wednesday.
Salaries of state employees are to go online Sunday, with most data to follow July 6. The Transparency Arkansas website will list revenues and expenditures of all state agencies except colleges and universities and will be updated daily.
The final component, information on bonded indebtedeness, is expected to go online in September, said Paul Louthian, administrator of the state Office of Accounting.
Lt. Gov. Mark Darr successfully pushed for the online checkbook during the 2011 legislative session. He had campaigned for office on promises to make records of all state spending available on the Internet.
“I’m excited about it,” Darr said. “I think it’s a huge step towards transparency, and that was the meaning behind it.”
The Legislature appropriated $558,000 to cover the cost of launching the site. Continuing costs are estimated at $250,000 per year, including the salaries of two people who were hired to maintain the site at salaries of about $60,000 each, Louthian said.
Legislators chose not to require state colleges and universities to participate in the online checkbook because they do not currently participate in the Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System, so including them would have greatly increased costs.
Darr said he is confident the site will save the state money in the long run. He said it should allow agencies to devote fewer man hours to responses to Freedom of Information Act requests and encourage lower bids for state contracts.
“Those who are bidding on state contracts in certain areas can kind of see what the competition is. … If you see somebody got it for ‘x’ and you’re like, ‘Man, I could have got it for 10 percent less,’” he said.
Darr also said he believes the online checkbook will give the governor an added incentive to demand efficiency from state agencies.
“Whoever the governor is — currently Gov. Mike Beebe or whoever the next governor is — they’re going to make sure that their agencies are a lot more thrifty, because if the blame comes back to the top, they’re going to make sure that their i’s are dotted and their t’s crossed,” he said.
Darr, a Republican, is widely seen as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2014 when Beebe, a second-term Democrat, will be term-limited.
Louthian said work on the website began in October. He estimated that about 50 people have worked on it at one time or another.
“It’s a project that has touched most every agency inside the executive branch,” he said.
The website will be mobile-enabled, meaning a smart phone-friendly version will be accessible. Arkansas will be the first state in the nation to offer that feature on its online checkbook, Louthian said.
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