In addition to the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement delivered today, National Treasury announced a new open data portal that allows community members to see exactly how a municipality spend money.

And it’s fantastic.

Developed by the Treasury with Code4SA, the Municipal Money open government data portal aims to promote transparency and citizen engagement through the visualization and ‘demystification’ of information about municipal spending.

It’s an enormous trove of information – 39 million “facts” – culled from budgets, annual reports and the auditor general’s office, broken down into easy to read bar charts and tables. Want to know how much Joburg spends on electricity a year (a lot) or how many days worth of operating cash Moqhaka has in the bank (not a lot)? This is the place to find it.

Municipal Money was created in response to the commitment made by the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan during his 2016 Budget Speech earlier this year to set up the portal.

“It is also in line with international best practice, in terms of which governments are increasingly opening up their data to the public and specifically budget data – to promote oversight, transparency and accountability,” treasury said in a statement.

The portal uses a number of tools to present key municipal financial information, and also to explain the related financial concepts and their relevance to the public.

It’s quite simple to use and lets you easily search for your municipality using a search tab at the top of the home page.

Once you’ve entered the municipality name, it pulls up information such as the mayor, municipal manager, total population and contact details.

Municipal Money
Municipal Money

All info is dated up to March 2016, so naturally the names of the mayor and municipal manger may have changed after the August local government elections.

You’ll find links to municipal audits between 2012 and 2016 as well as info such as the municipalities cash balance by June 2015, how much of its available funds the municipality has spent and what it was spent on, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and a bunch of other info.

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What’s great is that the information contained in the audit reports has been summarised and simplified in such a way that you don’t have to be a economics boffin to understand it.

“Municipal Money draws on the raw data from a linked database, which is now also available for anyone to view, download and re-use. In fact, it is envisaged that the raw data will be used by analysts or app developers in conjunction with other data sources to create innovative, interesting and valuable new applications for municipal financial data,” Treasury said.

Over the next few months, Municipal Money will be augmented to include more than just financial information and will also present wider sets of service delivery information including the geographical location and progress of planned infrastructure projects in communities.

“This exciting new initiative has the potential to transform the way members of the public view and engage with municipal financial data. It will no doubt also contribute to enhanced civic oversight, greater transparency and increased accountability of newly elected municipal councils,” Treasury concluded.