Archive for May, 2010

Update on local spending, HMRC Aspire contract and more COINS.

May 17, 2010

Here are three updates on requests about public spending, made recently:

  1. I’ve been asking for more detail on the way local council accounts are held at Cambridge City Council, Warwickshire County Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council and Huntingdonshire District Council. I picked Cambridgeshire based councils because I live there, and Warwickshire County Council because they have a new open data website. You may also remember that I asked for Cambridgeshire County Council’s accounts database schema, well I’ve now asked for the data with a few examples of reasonable redactions.
  2. Francis Irving had his request for a copy of the Aspire contract rejected. The Aspire contract is the agreement that HM Revenue and Customs made to outsource most, maybe all, of its IT services to Capgemini. Francis was told to be more specific in his request, as the cost of dealing with his existing request would exceed the £600 limit. Included with the rejection letter was some further reading on the Aspire contract. I’ve been working my way through this and trying to make some specific, and hopefully useful, requests for information. I’ve asked for more details about how Capgemini’s performance is being measured. Let’s see how that goes.
  3. There have been some more requests for bits of the COINS database from Julian Todd who is now appealing his request for 23 complete COINS records and from Francis Irving who has read the COINS training materials (PDF) and consequently asks for fact table.

To end I’ll just add this Wordle that I made by pasting into Wordle.com all the text in the COINS training materials I received:

It says it all really: “redacted data” and “Screen-shot exempt”.

UPDATE 15th June 2010: I’ve since discovered that HM Treasury rarely use the API to COINS — preferring to load the required data sets into Excel — so I wasn’t missing much when the screen shots where redacted.

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The New Leaders and COINS

May 17, 2010

It’s exciting times right now for people interested in where our tax money is used. The new leaders of the country have proposed to make the allocation of our tax money clearer than ever before. For example, I’ve been reading this speech George Osborne gave to the Institute of Chartered Accountants at the start of 2009. In it he states:

And so as a step towards spending transparency in our central government departments, we will publish shortly after coming to office the Treasury’s COINS database that reports several thousand programme spending items in a consistent format across departments.

For the first time, we will throw open the government’s books and shed light on wasteful spending.

For the first time, anyone will be able to find out how and where their taxes are being spent – and use this information to hold the next government – and every successive government – to account.

So come on then, publish it!