Colorado launches open book initiative for state’s finances

The state of Colorado has launched the beta version of a Web-based information and records database about state expenditures and revenues. Governor Bill Ritter and State Treasurer Cary Kennedy unveiled the Transparency Online Project (TOP) system Tuesday to make the state’s operations more accessible for public viewing.

“TOP sets a new standard for accountability, responsibility and transparency in state government,” Gov. Ritter said in a statement. “Taxpayers now have a convenient and modern tool to see exactly where their money is going and how it’s being spent.”

Initiated with a mandate in April, Governor Ritter created TOP through an executive order that directed the state’s Office of Information & Technology and the Office of the State Controller to establish a system that would ensure timely, free and meaningful access to the state’s financial information. The site allows users to search for two types of information: expenditure and revenue information. Users can search for expenditure information by parsing out, 1) which agency spent the money, 2) the types of goods and services bought, and by 3) the vendors who provided the goods and services.

By searching expenditures based on agency, department amounts and amounts spent by individual agencies within each department are displayed. The drill down expands to show expenditure category, expenditure name and finally the amount paid to specific vendors or service providers. Queries can only be for fiscal year 2009 or fiscal year 2010, but plans are in development to include information going back ten years.

Each search method accesses the same expenditure and revenue information, but presents the results in a different structure. When searching by vendor, users must start by highlighting the first and second letter (or number) in the vendor’s name to narrow the search fields. For example, by searching for ‘D’ and ‘E’ during FY 2010, a list of more than one hundred companies beginning ‘De’ appears. After scrolling down alphabetically, the user can click on the desired company name and see how much money they have been or will be paid, and through which department, agency and program.

The revenue searches work in much the same way, allowing users to search by revenue source and revenue recipients. By choosing FY 2010 and clicking the submit button under sources of revenue, users can quickly see where the state got its funds. For FY 2010, Colorado received the bulk of its revenue from Federal grants and contracts, individual income taxes, and sales taxes.

The project was completed in just under five months, a full four months ahead of schedule, as outlined in Gov. Ritter’s executive order. But the project is still in the beta phase, so administration officials urge users to send feedback to

“This is especially important in this economic climate as we keep the budget balanced and lead Colorado toward a strong recovery,” Gov. Ritter said. Included at, are links to other state departments, federal and Colorado Recovery sites, as well as infrastructure and investment resources.

“Transparency is the key to accountability,” Treasurer Cary Kennedy said in a statement, echoing the Governor’s comments.