Kiosk provides public access to financial records
September 23, 2015
For Nevada residents who want to keep an eye on state government spending without relying on someone else’s analysis, Controller Ron Knecht has a solution.
As promised during his campaign, he has put up a public computer kiosk in the controller’s office at Suite 200, 515 Musser St., for the public to look at and download various state financial records.
“This is to give the public direct access to all the files available,” Knecht said. “This is an effort to go beyond the strict requirements of FOIA (The Freedom of Information Act) and go to the spirit of it.”
Probably the most useful to regular folks, Knecht said, is the weekly BSR, the Budget Status Report. That report totals about 2,800 pages and lists in detail every expenditure by every state agency for the immediate past week and for the fiscal year to date. It also lists the total spending authority each agency has for the year and how much of that cash is left.
“This is to give the public direct access to all the files available. This is an effort to go beyond the strict requirements of FOIA (The Freedom of Information Act) and go to the spirit of it.”Ron KnechtController
For the Governor’s Office, as an example, the report shows a total of $7,331 in in-state commercial airline tickets for flights between Northern and Southern Nevada for the governor and his senior staff.
The report details all costs from salaries to sick leave, retirement premiums, and travel to the phone bills and office supplies.
To date this fiscal year, as an example, the Governor’s Office has expended just a hair more than $1 million.
It contains the same sort of information for every agency in the state, according to Michael Daul who manages the Vista System for the Controller’s office.
The system also contains the state’s Accounts Payable check register and, by next week, will have the Accounts Receivable register showing what the state agencies have received from all sources.
Knecht said this fiscal year, his office intends to make those check registers searchable so people can look up a specific company, vendor or person to see what they have gotten from or paid to the state.
He said in all of the records, people can go as far back as 2001.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Daul.
Daul and Knecht said the system is sanitized so no personal information of state workers or other people in the system is available. But Daul said in order to download the information, people are going to have to bring with them what is known as a “flash drive” or “thumb drive” — a tiny USB memory device. He said letting people email reports to themselves would expose the state’s financial system to potential hackers. With the flash drive, the system checks it for viruses and other dangerous files before letting it connect with the system.
Those drives are available at many stores for as little as $2.50 and dimply plug into a computer.
Knecht said the files that are available are the same ones the office currently provides to the Library and Archives but the electronic system is going to make it much easier for people to find what they are looking for.
He said people can visit anytime during office hours but recommended they make an appointment to make sure some one else isn’t using the kiosk.
He said he promised to provide the public better access to state financial records during the campaign and this terminal “is the next step in the fulfillment of that promise.”