University of Wisconsin–Madison

State to launch OpenBook Wisconsin website

OpenBook Wisconsin, a new website that will be launched this spring by the Department of Administration, is intended to provide public access to detailed information about state government expenditures, including at UW–Madison and the UW System.

Please read a message from state Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch to all state employees about the launch of the website.

The website stems from 2011 Wisconsin Act 32, s.16.413 of the Wisconsin Statues, which requires the DOA to create a searchable website with information about all state agency expenditures in excess of $100. The database will eventually include all state and UW salaries and fringe benefits, grants paid by state agencies, and all contract payments made by any agency or UW institutions. For ease of administration, all expenditures, regardless of amount, will be included.

Working with state agencies and the UW System, DOA has developed a plan to launch OpenBook in three phases.

Phase 1, which will launch soon, will include operating expenses such as travel payments, vendor payments, and purchasing card (PCard) detail.

In order to ensure a smooth roll out of expenditure data, DOA determined that Phase 1 will only involve agencies that use the State’s general ledger system. Entities with separate general ledger systems, including UW System institutions, will upload more data later. Capital expenditures made by the DOA on behalf of UW institutions are recorded in the State’s general ledger system, so they will be published in the first rollout of Phase 1.

Phase 2, to be launched later, will include employee salary and fringe benefit expenditures.

Phase 3 will include grants, capital projects, and VendorNet contracts. Launch dates for Phases 2 and 3 have not been announced.

We fully expect this project to raise many questions. Here are a few that we can anticipate and answer now:

Q: Will individual employees be listed, if they receive payments for travel expenses or other reimbursable expenses? Yes. Those payments will be included and the employee will be listed as the “vendor” in this case.

Q: Will private information be released? In accordance with the statutes, DOA’s database will exclude aids, local assistance, and transfers. UW System does not maintain Social Security Numbers in our payment data, so that will not be provided. DOA will take steps to redact other personal information, but individual agencies are responsible for requesting specific exemptions. For example, UW System will exclude payments to people who receive stipends for participating in scientific research studies. When Phase 2 is launched, details about individual benefit elections, such as health insurance, will not be provided.

Q: Will all UW data be available in Phase 1? Some UW data will be published as part of Phase 1. This is a major undertaking for DOA, and the process of consolidating financial data from multiple systems is very complex. Because UW System uses a different general ledger system, we will be given reporting instructions later. We will comply with the law to provide this level of transparency.

Q: Who will people contact for more information? Each entry in the OpenBook database will feature a “contact” button where people can request more detail. UW System is working with DOA to provide the appropriate contact information for UW entries.