GONZALES – Ascension Parish government officials unveiled a new online Open Finance portal on Wednesday that will allow residents to track income and expenses to a degree never before available in the parish, officials said.
It’s a concept that has been discussed for several years: gifting something akin to the state government’s Louisiana checkbook. The online portal is the result of an organizational overhaul and IT modernization effort started under the previous administration and parish council which saw its fulfillment under parish president Clint Cointment and the current council.
The president of the first term ran on transparency, promising during the 2019 campaign to offer better access to financial data. Since taking office, however, he has also been criticized by some board members for not being responsive enough to their questions, including budget and process issues around hiring and drainage.
“Transparency is the first step in building trust with our residents, and, let me tell you, one thing we need to work on is building trust with our residents,” Cointment said at a press conference at the parish complex. “Open Finance will bring a level of transparency never seen before in our parish.”
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For years, the site of the parish has posted annual audits and online budgets. Parish administrations have provided a monthly public finance overview to a parish council committee, which is videotaped, televised and shared online.
But parish officials said Open funding will provide real-time income and expense data with new details, updated every Sunday morning. Ascension’s new CFO and Treasurer Patrick Goldsmith on Wednesday demonstrated how Open Finance can be used to compare budgeted and actual spending.
Figures show, for example, that the East Ascension Drainage District spent nearly 75% of the $ 705,000 set aside for the operations of the Marvin J. Braud pumping station. In what has been a stormy 2021, the resort still has six months to go.
The portal dates back to fiscal 2018. Goldsmith said the offerings would expand to include vendor payments and salary information for each parish job.
Just two days after the Eastern Ascension Drainage Council voted to remove Cointment as drainage chief for 90% of the parish population, the start of Open Finance served a goal of the president and criticism of his advice.
Open Finance is accessible on https://ascensionparishla.finance.socrata.com/#!/dashboard.