Athens Messenger: Ohio University launches online 'checkbook’
By Samantha Taylor
September 13, 2017
In an effort to promote financial transparency, Ohio University has officially launched its involvement with www.OhioCheckbook.com and will publish all spending data online for the public to see.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel told The Messenger OU “should be applauded” for the amount of spending information they are posting online. It is the largest amount of such information posted out of any public university in Ohio.
Mandel, along with OU President M. Duane Nellis, announced the launch of OU’s online checkbook on Tuesday. In May of 2016, OU was one of five public universities or colleges in the state that agreed to partner with the Treasurer’s office to post their checkbook level expenditures on the website.
Mandel explained the reason Ohio University has only just launched on the website is due to the amount of time required to organize a massive amount of expenditures and scrub out any personal information about the university’s students.
“The process to put this much spending online takes time,” Mandel said.
In just the fiscal year 2015, Ohio University’s online checkbook included 172,000 individual transactions representing more than $490 million in spending. Expenditures as small as $6.99 are visible on the website.
Only four universities currently have their own OhioCheckbook.com sites — Ohio University, Bowling Green State University, Central State University and Central Ohio Technical College.
“Ohio University is glad to be a part of Treasurer Mandel’s efforts to bring greater accessibility and transparency to public spending in the State of Ohio,” Nellis said in a statement. “We are committed to being a part of OhioCheckbook.com and look forward to any collaborative efforts in support of ensuring the public trust.”
Mandel’s goal with OhioCheckbook.com was to make transparent the taxpayer money spent by state, local governments and school board.
“One of the best ways to hold public officials accountable is to put spending information online,” he said. “Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent.”
The initiative puts power back into the hands of the people, he added.
Mandel launched OhioCheckbook.com in 2014 and began urging local governments and school boards to join. His office sent letters to thousands of public officials inviting them to participate. The state government itself, along with several pension funds, have also posted their expenditures online.
There are three tabs on OhioCheckbook.com that separate the State of Ohio, local government and school boards and pension fund expenditures from one another. Expenditures listed from OU can be found under the “Local Gov & School Boards” tab, or by directly visiting www.ohiouniversity.ohiocheckbook.com.
Mandel said Ohio Checkbook led to the state receiving the number one transparency ranking in the nation for the second consecutive year in a row, determined by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s “Following the Money 2016” annual report.
More specifically, the research group ranked Ohio as the number one state in providing online access to government spending data in 2015 and 2016, which are major contrasts to its spot at 46th in the nation in 2014.
There are currently 1,200 local government and school boards in Ohio committed to posting their checkbooks online. Mandel said the program continues to expand, pointing out OU as an example.
Of these, several are located in Athens County: the village of Amesville; the townships of Alexander, Waterloo and York; and the school districts of Alexander and Nelsonville-York.
Local entities with OhioCheckbook.com
The following local governments and school boards are now signed up with www.OhioCheckbook.com to offer financial transparency online:
Alexander Local School District
Nelsonville-York City School District