State's new PennWATCH website makes tons of information available
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HARRISBURG -- If you'd like to know the number of salaried employees for the milk marketing board (23) or which agency has spent the most this fiscal year (education), you won't need a right-to-know request.
Those facts are among the reams of information on the business of Pennsylvania government available on the new PennWATCH website. The site, the product of a 2011 law, compiles in one place information that is legally public under the state right-to-know law.
As he unveiled the site Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett said PennWATCH could serve as a first stop for people seeking information about state government. His administration has received more than 14,000 right-to-know requests since he took office, he said.
"Many of the right-to-know requests we receive for information from the citizens should be, we believe, something they could find by simply logging on," he said.
The website includes information about the state budget, spending, revenue and employees. Salaries are searchable by name and agency, though employees can ask for their information to be excluded for reasons -- such as a protection-from-abuse order -- included in the right-to-know law, said Dan Egan, a spokesman for the Office of Administration. Of the approximately 83,000 full- and part-time employees under the governor's jurisdiction, the Office of Administration has processed about 200 approved exclusions, he said.
Mr. Corbett said he hoped making information accessible to the public would improve trust in government -- and prevent happenings that erode such confidence.
"Hopefully, it prevents scandal," he said. "In a truly open society, people generally won't do something they don't want to read on the front page of the papers the next day."
The primary sponsors of the legislation, Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, and Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, also spoke. Mr. Browne said making spending figures accessible for scrutiny will lead to better budget decisions.
"Our overall budget process will improve because our citizens will be able, with the information, to be actively engaged in our affairs," Mr. Browne said.
The website was developed by state employees, not contracted workers, Mr. Corbett said.
First Published December 21, 2012 12:00 am