Tools for Transparency in Central Government Spending.
Trust in government, policy effectiveness and the governance agenda has rarely been more important than in the opening decades of the twenty first century. For that reason, we herein present centgovspend, an open source software library which provides functionality to automatically scrape and parse central government spending at the micro level. While the design ideals are internationally applicable to any future data origination pipelines, we specifically tailor it to the United Kingdom, a country which is unique not only in terms of its transparency in procurement, but also one which was subject to a parliamentary expenses scandal, years of austerity, and then a volatile political process regarding a referendum to leave the European Union. The library optionally reconciles suppliers and subsequently analyzes payments made to private entities. Our implementation results in scraping over 4.9m payments worth over £3.5tn in value. As a way of showcasing what such a dataset makes possible, we outline three prototype applications in the fields of public administration (procurement across Standard Industry Classifier), sociology (stratification across those who supply government) and network science (board interlock across suppliers) before presenting suggestions for the future direction of public procurement data origination and analysis.