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Frequently asked questions

The following are the most frequently asked questions about the Open Checkbook.

  1. What are the transparency initiative and Open Checkbook project?
  2. How do I get access to the Open Checkbook website?
  3. When did the Open Checkbook website go live?
  4. How does the public know who to contact with questions?
  5. Who answers questions that the data generates?
  6. Who can I contact with further questions about access to the website or the project?
  7. What is the universe of data used for the Open Checkbook website?
  8. What is the difference between the Open Checkbook payment data and other expenditure data included on fiscal.wa.gov?
  9. How does an agency keep data exempt from disclosure from being disclosed?
  10. How far back is disbursement data available?
  11. How often are the data refreshed?
  12. What is included and excluded in the Open Checkbook?
  13. Are revenue refunds included in the Open Checkbook?
  14. Are warrant cancellations included in the Open Checkbook?
  15. Are higher education payments included in the Open Checkbook?
  16. Are local account payments included in the Open Checkbook?
  17. Are detailed purchase card transactions included in the Open Checkbook?
  18. Are interagency or intra-agency activity included in the Open Checkbook?
  19. Are salaries and benefits payments included in the Open Checkbook?
  20. Are corrections to payments included in the Open Checkbook?
  21. Who can I contact with further questions about data?

What are the transparency initiative and Open Checkbook project?

The transparency initiative in Washington was formalized in Senate Bill 6818, which was codified as RCW 44.48.150 and became effective on June 12, 2008. It says the Legislature intends to make revenue and expenditure data as open, transparent, and publicly accessible as is feasible. This intention agrees with the public view that transparency is fundamental to accountability.

To help accomplish transparency, most states, including Washington, have transparency websites. Washington’s transparency website (fiscal.wa.gov) is a collaborative effort between the Office of Financial Management (OFM) and the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee (LEAP).

The transparency website went live December 2008 with user-friendly access to agency and statewide data in areas such as budgets, spending, revenue, state employee salaries, and contracts. The Open Checkbook was added the first week of January 2012.

How do I get access to the Open Checkbook website?

The "Open Checkbook" is an option on www.fiscal.wa.gov. No special access is needed.

When did the Open Checkbook website go live?

The Open Checkbook went live the first week of January 2012.

How does the public know who to contact with questions?

The transparency website directs the public to send an email to a generic email address. LEAP monitors the email traffic and forwards questions to the specific agency’s contact person.

Who answers questions that the data generates?

Once the email question is forwarded to the agency's contact person (see above), the agency decides how to distribute the question and respond.

Who can I contact with further questions about the Open Checkbook project?

Contact Tom Jensen at LEAP or Kim Thompson at OFM.

What is the universe of data used for the Open Checkbook website?

The universe is a subset of disbursements made through the Agency Financial Reporting System (AFRS). AFRS makes disbursements for treasury and treasury trust accounts only. Disbursements made from local accounts are not included. Refer below for specifics on what is included or excluded.

What is the difference between the Open Checkbook payment (disbursement) data and other expenditure data included on fiscal.wa.gov?

According to the State Administrative and Accounting Manual (SAAM) glossary, disbursements are “payment[s] by cash, warrant, check, journal voucher, ACH, or any other technological payment method approved by OFM.” Expenditures are “decreases in net current financial resources. Expenditures include disbursements and accruals of the current period. Expenditures do not include encumbrances.”

Not all expenditures are disbursements. An example is an accrual. Not all disbursements are expenditures. An example is a revenue refund. Therefore, disbursement amounts do not necessarily equal expenditure amounts for any payee or period of time.

How does an agency keep data exempt from disclosure from being disclosed?

Unless information is specifically exempt from disclosure, it is disclosed if it meets the other inclusion criteria. We gathered information on exempt data via a survey and then worked with individual agencies on how to exclude exempt data from disclosure.

How far back is payment data be available?

Payment data are available beginning January 1, 2012.

How often is the data be refreshed?

The website data is refreshed each month after AFRS closes.

What is included and excluded in the Open Checkbook?

Payments made through AFRS are included. Payments made from petty cash accounts and other local bank accounts are not included.

From the universe of AFRS payments, budget type N (non-budgeted); vendor type N (client); objects A, B, and M; and subobjects NA, NF, NT, NU, and NY are excluded. There are also a few agency-specific exclusions.

Are revenue refunds included in the Open Checkbook?

Revenue refunds are not included in the website.

Are warrant cancellations included in the Open Checkbook?

Warrant cancellations are not included in the website.

Are higher education payments included in the Open Checkbook?

Higher education payments made outside AFRS are not included in the website.

Are local account payments included in the Open Checkbook?

Local account payments are not included in the website.

Are detailed purchase card transactions included in the Open Checkbook?

Because purchase card detail transactions are not posted to AFRS through a payment batch type, they are not included in the website.

Are interagency or intra-agency activity included in the Open Checkbook?

Payments made through AFRS to other agencies or accounts within an agency that meet the inclusion criteria are included in the website.

Are salaries and benefits payments included in the Open Checkbook?

No, we decided not to include these because salary information is already included on the website.

Are corrections to payments included in the Open Checkbook?

Warrant cancellations are not included in the website. Aside from warrant cancellations, no other corrections, such as JVs, meet the selection criteria.
Therefore, it is important that information be as correct as possible when originally entered.

Who can I contact with further questions about data?

If you are not a state employee, contact Tom Jensen at LEAP or Kim Thompson at OFM. If you have questions about a specific payment, contact your agency fiscal officer or accounting department. If you have questions about the type of data that is displayed, contact your agency’s assigned OFM Accounting Consultant.