STATE & TEACHER PENSIONS NOW AVAILABLE FOR ALL TO SEE

DECEMBER 6, 2012: If you are a retired state employee or teacher, the amount of your pension and former agency or workplace is now on the state-run “Open Checkbook” website available to anyone with a computer.

Other that the pension amount, retirement date and former employer, the site provides no personal information such as address or Social Security numbers. According to state officials, there are over 100,000 retirees listed on the site, which allows Massachusetts taxpayers to see in far greater detail how much and where most of their state tax dollars are spent.

The site - www.mass.gov/opencheckbook - was created as part of a two-year project, a collaboration of the state treasurer’s office, the secretary of administration and finance, the state comptroller and the director of the recovery and reinvestment office. The site cost the state $1.8 million.

About 15 million payments made during the past two fiscal years are said to be listed on the site, with pie charts and percentage breakdowns. Payment information to more than 50,800 vendors will be accessible through a search engine that allows users to type in a name or department to have a peek.

Quasi-public agencies that do not receive direct state budget appropriations, such as Massport, MassHousing, the Convention Center Authority and education collaboratives, are not included.

Spending by the MBTA, part of the state’s consolidated transportation agency, is also not part of the site.

Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez said the MBTA and quasi-public agencies are not part of the state’s accounting system, but he hopes to include them in future versions of the website.

The website will detail spending by all agencies funded through the state budget, such as the Legislature, the Judiciary, sheriffs’ departments, all constitutional officers – governor’s office, treasurer, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state – as well as all executive offices. Gonzalez called the website “one step in a long line of steps to try to improve trust in state government.”

“This is going to open up government in Massachusetts in a way it has never been opened up before,” said Gonzalez, who added the website would also help state officials as well.

“We have not had access to a tool like this before,” he said.

The site will let users look at whom the state paid, what the state bought, and what individual departments spend their budgets on, according to state Comptroller Martin Benison. Until now, that information was only available quarterly through the comptroller’s office. The site will detail money allocated in the state budget, as well as federal grants received by Massachusetts. State officials demonstrated how browsers will be able to type in a state employee name or a department and retrieve payment information.

“It is an extremely powerful and robust search tool that will make government more accessible,” Gonzalez said.

“Availability of individual pension data is nothing new,” said Association President Ralph White. “Through a Freedom of Information request, the Boston Herald has had this information available online for several years.”

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