Three months ago, I participated in the ICEGOV2016 conference (the International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance) where several international projects on open finance and open spending were presented. Our papers were about the format for budget data and research about Russian municipal budgets, and I was surprised by the interest to Russian financial data from other participants and want to make a review of this subject.
Russian Ministry of Finance focused on publishing open data after Open Budget Survey 2012 with the aim to enter the top five countries by budget openness. Several laws about open data and open budgets were accepted on the national level and data publishing became mandatory.
The general overview of the open finance datasets is presented in Fig. 1. Russia has three levels of budget: national (federal), regional, and municipal (local). The main data providers on the national level are the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Treasury (the Federal Tax Service is going to publish some datasets about companies in English within this year, but at the moment its contribution to the open finance data has not been significant).
Figure 1. The general overview of the open finance datasets
The Ministry of Finance has an ‘open data’ section on their official website. You can find there, for example, expenditures of national budget in machine-readable formats and historical budgets of the Russian Empire and USSR. The law of national budget is also published, but its format is PDF. With the NGO Infoculture we are trying to prove that the national budget is one of the basic financial datasets, and after year of communications the Ministry of Finance announced the beginning of work on its converting into a machine-readable format. The data about government programs can be found at programs.gov.ru, the results of monitoring of budgets, the budget deficit and other parameters of the budgets of regions and municipalities are published at the Federal State Statistics Service website, the revenue detailed statistics is available at the website of the Federal Tax Service, the parameters of the budgetary systems are published at the State Automated Information System “Governance”. In addition, the Electronic portal of the budget system was launched. It has general information about budget process and budget systems, different machine-readable datasets and several API’s with budgetary classifiers. The most interest datasets are the Register of participants of the budget process (information about 200 000 organizations, who can perform operations with government finances) and the Register of the federal budget subsidies. In future the Ministry of finance is going to make this portal as the entry point for the regions and all municipalities to work with its budget data.
The Ministry of Treasure is also involved in the work on budget system’s portal. But the main datasets from this authority are financial reports and government contracts. Financial reports are published on roskazna.ru website and they have information, how much money was actually received and how they had been spent. The Ministry of Treasure (with its regional branches) are producing and publishing ~1000 financial reports per year and the main feature of this data is the format (its machine-readable and has 2-3 general structure). The Russian government contracts are published on zakupki.gov.ru website. These data are really amazing because of the following characteristics:
- All data are machine-readable and has more than 80 fields about subject of contracts, customers, contractors, economy classifiers;
- You can find there all contracts, which governed by the 44-FZ, 94-FZ, 223-FZ laws. These laws cover information about national, regional, and municipal levels;
- The quantity of contracts is nearing 20 000 000, and data is updating every day;
- Most of the government contracts have scans or files with the full text of the agreements (these agreements, of course, are not machine-readable).
The official website zakupki.gov.ru has diferent problems, which are solved in the project Clearspending. Clearspending, (GosZatraty in Russian) is an independent technological platform, developed by the NGO Information Culture in partnership with the NGO Civil Initiatives Committee. Clearspending has its own database, which is a ever-day updated copy of the official public procurements database and all its digital data. You can find the English description about its features and differences on this post. Now it has data about 20 000 000 government contracts, 300 000 customers, and 1 200 000 suppliers.
On the regional level the financial authorities are publishing on its websites regional budgets, projects of regional budgets and financial reports. Sometimes they launch regional open budget portals (f.e. Leningrad region, Moscow) with machine-readable financial data and budgets for citizens. The typical regional budget in Russia is a law with more than 100 annexes. For example, the file with the St. Petersburg expenditures has more than 1000 pages and its whole budget has more than 130 volumes, so its presentation to the governor and the deputies is always the show for journalists (you can see it on Fig. 2).
Figure 2. One printed copy of St. Petersburg budget
On the municipal level Administrations and Councils of Deputies are publishing laws of the municipal budgets and financial reports. These datasets have the most detailed information and the worse quality with errors. The structures of these datasets are different and the format mostly not machine-readable. If you interested in St. Petersburg municipal budgets, you need to search more than 100 websites to find data about all municipalities, which is a long and tedious process. To fix these problems the Ministry of finance is going to use the Electronic portal of the budget system in future and make several linked datasets.
In conclusion, nowadays in Russia the data from the most budget stages are available (including, for example, declarations of the state employees, data about procurements, statistics of foreign trade, which are not described here) and the next step for government should be the improvement of their quality.