In a first for local government in Australia, Ipswich City Council has given ratepayers unprecedented access to the city’s finances with the launch of an online Transparency and Integrity Hub.
More than six gigabytes, or thousands upon thousands of lines, of data has been published to the hub, providing the community with direct access to past and current financial information for council as well as council-controlled entities.
Other available data includes councillor expenses, how much money was spent on the city’s Smart City Program and procurement data for contracts over $200,000 (exl GST).
Mayor Teresa Harding said the hub’s launch was an important moment for the City of Ipswich.
“Our community’s trust in council was heavily shaken in recent years as damning examples of maladministration and misuse of public monies came to light,” Mayor Harding said.
“Today, we close the door on that dark past and mark a truly fresh start for an era of unrivalled transparency and accountability.
“Never before in Australia has a local council opened up its books to the community to the extent we have with the Transparency and Integrity Hub, allowing ratepayers the greatest scrutiny over how their money is spent.
“This is just the beginning and we will release a lot more data insights across a range of subjects in the months ahead as well as move to having financial data on the hub updated in near real-time.”
Information available on the transparency and integrity hub at launch includes:
- Council financial information for the past five financial years
- Detailed income and expenditure data for current and past council-controlled entities for the past five financial years, including:
- Ipswich City Developments Pty Ltd – formerly Ipswich City Developments Enterprises Pty Ltd
- Ipswich City Enterprises Pty Ltd
- Ipswich City Enterprises Investments Pty Ltd
- Ipswich City Properties Pty Ltd
- Ipswich Motorsport Park Pty Ltd
- Procurement data for all contracts valued $200,000 (exc GST) for the past five financial years
- Detailed information about how money was spent on council’s Smart City Program
- Councillor related expenses, allowances and reimbursements for the past five financial years
Mayor Harding said conjecture and rumours around the operations of council-controlled entities had festered for years, leading to significant mistrust of council in the community.
“Too much of what occurred under the previous council was shrouded in secrecy. The community has a right to know more about how its money was spent,” Mayor Harding said.
“This is about restoring the community’s faith in council and sending a clear message that Ipswich City Council is open, effective and accountable.
“For too many years those words were spoken in Ipswich by elected representatives who did not live them. This council is committed to not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk.”
The Ipswich transparency and integrity hub uses the OpenGov cloud-based software, which is a leading platform used by more than 1000 cities, counties and state agencies across 48 US states including the City of New York, Ohio State and San Antonio.
OpenGov founder and CEO Zac Bookman lauded Ipswich for leading the way in the movement for effective and accountable government.
“I commend Mayor Teresa Harding on her go-live of OpenGov. Her demonstration of leadership to power a more effective and accountable Ipswich City Council directly aligns with our values,” he said.
“Through our local partner in Australia, Redman Solutions, we are delighted to help lead the way in transforming Australian local government.
“We look forward to collaborating on their transformation journey.”
Mayor Harding said using the OpenGov platform, which was unanimously selected via a panel through an open tender process, delivered on the commitment to residents to deliver a “best of breed” solution for Ipswich.
Delivered by the Queensland-based OpenGov partner, Redman Solutions, the Transparency and Integrity Hub is a user friendly, searchable platform, with a focus on providing data in an accessible way.
Financial information published to the hub will initially be updated monthly, with a plan to move to near real-time publication as soon as possible.
“This is a major change for how Ipswich City Council conducts business and will put a renewed focus on the way council manages data and information,” Mayor Harding said.
“We are committed to progressing to a point where financial information is updated daily.
“This is bigger than simply publishing data, it’s also about driving effective decisions through a more accountable organisation and more informed community.”
Why is some data on the hub masked?
In making information available publicly, council must exercise caution to ensure it meets a range of lawful obligations including those set out in Queensland’s privacy law.
An independent Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) has been undertaken and is available on this portal. As a result certain information has been de-identified.
Council is actively seeking to provide more detailed and useful information over time. This includes working through the recommendations of the PIA, including ongoing liaison with the Privacy Commissioner.
>> The Ipswich transparency and integrity hub can be accessed at ipswich.qld.gov.au/open-ipswich