Second Batch Of COINS Data Ready For Release
More public spending data will be released by HM Treasury this week, and will be available in user-friendly web format 24 hours later
HM Treasury has announced it will publish the second batch of expenditure data from its COINS (Combined Online Information System) database, which contains details of public spending across Whitehall, on 15 June.
The raw dataset, which may contain between 10 million and 15 million lines of data, includes spending information from 2005, 2006 and 2007. It will be available in user-friendly web format via a dedicated online portal, RA.Pid Gateway, 24 hours after it has been released to the public by the government.
Scrutinising public spending
The online project is pioneered by cloud computing analytics firm Rosslyn Analytics, whose web-based analytics platform, Rapidintel, can process data extremely rapidly. The company claims that, by comparison, traditional data management solutions would take four months to deploy, and require teams of consultants and hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“There is no excuse for any organisation, be it in the private or public sector, to wait weeks or months for spend visibility,” said Charles Clark, CEO of Rosslyn Analytics. “Rosslyn Analytics, using the Rapidintel platform, is committed to helping the Treasury turn the government’s complex expenditure data into a more accessible format that empowers people to view and scrutinise public spending that matters most to them. Only then, will taxpayers be informed to suggest to the Chancellor where savings should be made to tackle our £156 billion deficit.”
RA.Pid Gateway’s reporting features include drill-down reports and diagrams, and allow users to categorise data in several different ways, for example, by time, department or programme.
Pulling back curtains and throwing open doors
From the beginning, the coalition government has emphasised its commitment to freeing up information on public spending and opening up more government data to the general public. Earlier this month, the Cabinet Office published the salary of every civil servant earning over £150,000 online, claiming that greater transparency would enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account.
“We are pulling back the curtains to let light into the corridors of power,” said Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office (left) . “By being open and accountable we can start to win back people’s trust. Openness will not be comfortable for us in government; but it will enable the public to hold our feet to the fire. This way lies better government.”
HM Treasury’s website also describes “removing the cloak of secrecy from government and throwing open the doors of public bodies”. It states that, by November, all new items of central government spending over £25,000 will be published online and, by January 2011, all new items of local government spending over £500 will be published on a council-by-council basis.
During the previous government, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown pumped a great deal of money into providing online public services, with projects ranging from setting up electronic medical records to providing free ordnance survey maps. However, an investigation by the Independent newspaper in January found that British taxpayers had been saddled with a bill of more than £26 billion for government computer systems that had either suffered severe delays, or run over budget, or that had been cancelled altogether.
The current Prime Minister David Cameron has promised that all new central government ICT contracts will be published online from July 2010. The information will be available at data.gov.uk – the data sharing site headed by web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt from the University of Southhampton.