From the cc flickrstream of sludgegulper Thanks!
I have been watching and reading about the goings on with the UK parliamentarian expenses with a mixture of incredulousness, dismay, horror, and anger. This is a grave insult to the UK tax payers, and a blow to global democracy. Corrupt politicians around the world can sleep easy. One man’s moat is another man’s Wabenzi.
Other than all the information about moat cleaners, tennis courts, duck shelters, large screen TVs, iPhones for husbands, 200 mile taxi rides, tax advisors, and mortgage payments on mortgages that no longer existed, I was struck by the absolute lack of process and systems to manage the expenses. The inefficiencies and the lack of control are astounding.
The problems are bigger than technology, The whole process needs a complete overall, but essentially we are talking about some basic compliance procedures. Workflow approvals, automated routing of claims out of policy, electronic receipt management,and SOD (separation of duties). Even simple expense management system would go a long way to stopping this sort of abuse happening again. Rules can be easily automated and enforced, and with a bit of configuration, even issues such as flipping and claiming for trivia could be managed.
Driven out of a good process system, the data could also be easily mashed up with consumer analytics tools such as Google maps, and a simple query tool, allowing concerned citizens the right to audit.
Indeed, there has been a wave of excellent mashups and analytic reports based on the data that has been released and collated.
Charles Arthur over at the Guardian has a closer look. Tony Hirst’s blog gives an excellent account on the technical efforts needed to do this. Looking at what he has done with essentially free software. It is interesting to see how various technologies and techniques have been deployed. more here. It is a fascinating study for anyone interested in analytics and data visualization. It does make the analytics offerings of many of the software vendors I cover seem rather dowdy, but that story is for another day.
Shining a bit of sunshine on the issue by opening up the data is the best remedy. After all, when I last looked, parliamentarians work for the citizens.