Many Australians have been angered by the recent revelations regarding extravagance of certain parliamentarians’ expenses. The prime minister has announced a fundamental reform of the “vexing” problem of politician expense entitlement and has announced a comprehensive reform of the entire system.

While focus on any one individual is important it can take away from the larger picture. Most Australian tax payers would be surprised to know that over $95million was spent on entitlements in 2014 by the 250+ Federal MPs and Senators.

While there is no doubt that the majority of expenses are legitimate, there are currently no services that highlight overreach or abuse in these claims. The key issue the review needs to address is the lack of transparency and ease of access to this data for Australian public.

EntitlementWatch Dashboard was created to shed light on these expenses claimed. See below

Data Sources: Department of Finance

Dashboard Navigation Guide:

  • Click on Expense category on top left to explore by Top spenders
  • Drill down into individual spenders on left by clicking bar chart below
  • Total Expenses is updated based on your selection and the scatter diagram has further details on right
  • Press Reset at top left or bottom left of chart to start again!
  BigInsights Opinion: A Data Driven Approach To Entitlement Reform
  1. Change Culture: An understanding that these are not “entitlements” but expenses to achieve positive outcome for the Australian people. We need to set and measure key performance outcomes against which expenses will be measured.
  2. Technology: Given Australia is a leader in the usage of mobile and social media technology, we need to harness this technology to capture, store and report on entitlement costs.
  3. Data Capture: Provide a Smartphone/Tablet app that can record individual expenses to enable politicians (or their staff) to provide richer information about individual expenses. Where possible linking this to specific initiative being worked upon.
  4. Visualisation: Provide a digital dashboard for the Australian public to analyse expenses v/s outcomes achieved. This is a great way to foster meaningful community discussion.
  5. Open Data: Detailed expenditure dataset to be available on data.gov.au for public scrutiny. Data set should have row level detail of each expense item recorded against outcomes.
  6. Near Real Time: Information available within days/weeks of expenditure being recorded not months as is the current situation.
  7. Commentary: When expenses are above community expectations and historical baseline, detailed outcomes achieved by the overspend should be articulated.

There is a real opportunity to design a data driven solution that provides transparency and rewards the politicians that are delivering outstanding outcomes for the Australian public.

While technology and processes exists to create a more transparent and data rich solution, the key question remains, can politicians handle this kind of transparency?

Time will tell as a new system is debated, designed and implemented.

About the Author: Raj Dalal is Principal of BigInsights and Author of upcoming book “Data Driven Innovation: Winning & Growing using Big Data Analytics”.

Raj has over 20+ years experience in all aspects of the IT&T Industry across Australia/Asia Pacific in Multinationals and startups . He is the convener of EntitlementWatch.org.au. He holds a Masters of Commerce & Bachelor of Computer Science from University of New South Wales in Australia.

About the Company:

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