How to Be Open About Spending: Innovating in Public Sector Reporting in the Information Age

The field of public sector reporting is moving from vertical to horizontal accountability: from hierarchical relationships that mediate between public organisations and citizens to directly disclosing available information. IT developments play an important role in innovative forms of reporting that respond to the growing importance of horizontal accountability.

This paper provides an overview of some of the most important initiatives on the plane of reporting innovations, such as gov.uk and OpenSpending, as well as recent examples in the Netherlands. The examples underline the importance of horizontal accountability forms, as well as the significance of ‘horizontal integration’: the idea that systems are fully integrated across different functions. However, issues of interoperability, security, and information architecture persist, often pared with the lack of authority to coerce (cross-sectoral) reporting changes. The paper concludes with a discussion of how these initiatives can aid further improvement in public accountability. We argue that the new forms of reporting do not only influence the question how reporting is composed, but that they also affect what is reported and for whom the reporting is compiled.