Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman.

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

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Governor Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday the launch of Oklahoma Checkbook, an interactive web site that provides regularly updated data on state expenses. While he touted the site as an improvement in transparency, Stitt and other officials also said much work remains and improvements will be ongoing.

“This really fulfills a campaign promise that we told Oklahomans that we were going to do: We were going to make government more accountable and more transparent,” Stitt said. “This is a huge step in the right direction.”

Oklahoma Checkbook can be accessed at https://checkbook.ok.gov. The initiative is a partnership between the Stitt Administration and the Office of the State Treasurer. Visitors to the site can view state revenue, vendor payments, payroll, state travel expenses, and more. Data on the site is updated daily.

Web sites in West Virginia and Ohio were the main model for Oklahoma’s new site. Officials noted Oklahoma was previously given a D+ rating for financial transparency by outside evaluators, and predicted the new site would dramatically improve that ranking.

“The Oklahoma Checkbook will shine a light on financial operations of the state,” said State Treasurer Randy McDaniel. “It will allow everyone to see where their tax dollars are being spent, and it’s absolutely the right thing to do. Openness, transparency, accountability—these are key words to describe this initiative.”

David Ostrowe, state Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration, said the process of building the new site, which occurred over 60 days, was “very eye opening.”

“We went online about three weeks ago,” Ostrowe said. “In the last three weeks we have addressed more accounting issues at agencies, just inconsistencies and problems.”

Among other things, officials discovered money at agencies that was not classified correctly, Ostrowe said. That cash was effectively sitting idle.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t measure it,” Ostrowe said. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it. This accomplishes all that from the transparency side.”

Not all agency financial data is on the site. Officials said more will be added over time.

“One of the things we’re working on is an educational piece,” Ostrowe said. “We currently publish educational quality data. It’s a lot. Right now, if you want to compare schools, between two schools, each school has a 300-page report.”

He said parents deserve an easier method of making comparisons.

Stitt noted there are 120 state agencies and 400 commissions in Oklahoma government, and predicted the web site will allow citizens to assist in government oversight and also find ways to improve the Oklahoma Checkbook system.

“We’re going to catch errors,” Stitt said. “We’re going to see things that don’t make sense.”

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

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