Finance ministry’s portal ‘useless’

20-Oct-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Open Fiscal Data, a tax revenue and expenditure data portal set up and operated by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, remains underutilised by the public despite a hefty investment of 600 million won ($525,000) spent to update the system in 2018, an opposition party lawmaker said Monday.

Criticism is growing, given the tax money spent has apparently failed to fix its user interface which is counterintuitive and user-unfriendly. The failure points to an administrative inefficiency highlighted further by a lack of features that makes simple time series analysis virtually impossible, he added.

Data presented by Rep. Yoo Gyeong-joon of People Power Party (PPP) at the National Assembly Strategy and Finance Committee session showed the ministry-run portal was used just 77,000 times in 2020.

This is about 0.8 percent of the 8.73 million times visitors accessed a data portal for jobs, consumer prices and industrial output run by Statics Korea (KOSTAT). The number of ministry portal users had been on a steady increase to 90,000 in 2018, up from 33,000 in 2015, 50,000 in 2016 and 67,000 in 2017. But the figure was at 96,000 in 2019 and dropped to 77,000 in 2020.

The former KOSTAT commissioner said extracting data from the ministry’s portal is complex, complicated and time-consuming ? a failure to fulfill its duty of granting greater public access, thereby increasing transparency and understanding of government-compiled data.

Many users are left frustrated, overwhelmed and lost, after using the state-run portal updated to make the user experience productive and improve understanding of fiscal data and by extension the overall economy, according to Yoo.

“One cannot help but feel the operator has been completely derelict in their duties,” Yoo said. “It’s as if telling the users to find information for themselves, as the government’s job of uploading data is done. Data management maintained in this fashion is meaningless.”

The criticism is inevitable in large part because the ministry’s portal offers data on a full one-year period all stored in a single Microsoft Excel file, making it virtually impossible to narrow down search results by daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis for comparative analysis.

Unavailability of related data due to frequent name changes of similar state-run projects is another problem that blocks comprehensive understanding of economic indices over a wider time span.

Making the data presentation unattractive as academic research material is a lack of deeper, implication-oriented analysis, which the lawmaker said is a task that should be undertaken by the Korea Public Finance Information Service, the ministry-supervised state-run organisation which de facto operates the portal.

“Information about where the taxpayers’ money was spent and how much of an economic impact was expected following a certain fiscal spending is not available from the ministry’s portal. The crucial, academically and statistically meaningful data should be offered via updates in the future,” he said.

A more comprehensive online portal needs to be set up, he added, to encompass K-edufine, an online portal with combined functions of education ministry’s finances, accounting and administrative systems, e-hojo (a regional government’s administrative portal) and Digital Budget Accounting System (dBrain, the ministry’s finances and accounting portal).

“Several different state-run data portals should be merged, or at least data there should be made searchable for a connected, single view to maximise data use efficiency,” Yoo said.


Category: Korea

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