Open Knowledge


The Spend Publishing Dashboard tracks the timeliness and quality of the spend data published by UK Government Departments as part of their transparency commitments.

Based on the analysis of several thousand individual data files published by more than thirty departments, it provides a simple and easy-to-understand overview of performance on key metrics such as:

The goal of the dashboard is to support (and drive) improvement in the quality of expenditure data published by government entities---be it local authorities, departments or others. Specifically, it aims to:

As part of the development of the dashboard we have also created various related tools including the online service "GoodTables" that allows users to check the quality of their CSV or XLS spend data files by validating them against existing government recommendations such as HMT recommendations for Departments and the Local Government Transparency Code.


The UK leads the world in terms of the publication of open data on public finances. Fiscal transparency and provision of open data in this area are seen as central to the government's transparency and open data strategy, helping to promote government efficiency and effectiveness and empowering citizens with an understanding of where their tax money goes.

Data is published on spending at both the national and the local level along with related budgetary and financial data. Specifically, the Government requires regular publication of detailed, transactional, expenditure information by departments and local authorities - that is, information on all individual spending items from monthly mobile phones contracts to major software systems.

At the national level, information on expenditure over £25k is one of the few mandated datasets that Departments must publish. Similarly at the local level, the Local Government Transparency Code requires publication of spending over £500 on a quarterly basis. Specifically paragraph 19, requires publication of itemised spending over £500 on a quarterly basis on items such as individual invoices, grant payments, expense payments, payments for goods and services, rent, credit notes over £500, and transactions with other public bodies. Paragraph 42 recommends - but does not mandate - extending this to publishing on a monthly basis covering all items over £250 and including the total amount spent on remuneration over the period, as well as classifying expenditure using the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Service Reporting Code of Practice to enable comparability between local authorities.

The Problem

However, whilst the volume of data being is impressive, the quality is often less so. Poor quality data greatly reduces the usability and value of the data released - for business, for researchers, for journalists, for citizens and for government itself. Specific quality issues include:

Lastly, though not a data quality issue in the narrow sense, we would add:

The Dashboard

We need to drive and support improvements in the quality and usability of spending data. This Spend Publishing Dashboard is

In particular, the Spend Publ exists to provide a simple and easy-to-understand overview of how

Like all good simple visual representations it is based on large amounts of behind the scenes work.


Is the project free/open-source?

Yes, all code is open-source and is published on GitHub.

Is the data open?

Yes, all the data we have produced---including a database of all spending files and their quality---is open and published online.

Why are local authorities not included?

We intend to also support spend data publication by local authorities. However, unlike departmental spending which is centralized on and easily locatable due to consistent tagging, local authority spending is spread across hundreds of local authority websites in the UK. Tracking down the thousands of different data files ultimately has proved too resource-intensive for our limited funding. However, it is something we are focused on for the future.