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Frequently Asked Questions


What is transparency?

In terms of government spending, transparency refers to government opening its financial books to the public so that taxpayers can see exactly where their money is going.

Why is transparency important?

Transparency ensures that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently by ensuring all decisions are made in the open and on the record. Transparency means that citizens can review and question policymakers' decisions, examine documents, root out inefficiencies and hold officials accountable for the way tax dollars are spent.

How often is PennWATCH data updated?

Data provided through the PennWATCH website is updated monthly and contains year-to-date cumulative data.  Exceptions include employee compensation, which is updated annually for the most recently completed calendar year (January 1 through December 31), and performance measures, which are updated annually for the most recently completed fiscal year (July 1 through June 30).   PennWATCH also provides links to external data sources whose update schedules may vary. 

Who is responsible for the accuracy of the data on this site?

In order to provide comprehensive information, PennWATCH presents unaudited data from the commonwealth’s central accounting and personnel system, as well as data submitted by entities outside this system.  Ultimately, each entity is responsible for the accuracy of the information presented on PennWATCH. 


Who should I contact if I have questions or need more data?

Questions regarding specific data should be directed to the commonwealth agency that reported it.


What Web browser do I need to view the information on this site?

Browser​ Supported​​
Internet Explorer 9
Internet Explorer 8 Yes
Internet Explorer 7 Yes
Internet Explorer 6 No
Google Chrome (publically released version 31.0.1600.0 and lower) Yes
Mozilla Firefox (latest publically released version) Yes
Apple Safari (latest publically released version) *OS X Only Yes

Should I use the ‘Back’ button on my browser while I am using this site?

No.  At present it is not recommended to use the 'Back' button in the browser window to navigate through the site.  Use the menu options on the left side of the screen.


What is the commonwealth’s fiscal year?

The commonwealth’s fiscal year is a twelve-month period beginning July 1 and ending June 30 of the following calendar year and is used as the state’s accounting and appropriation period.  In PennWATCH,  it is identified by the year in which the fiscal year begins.  For example, July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 is identified as Fiscal Year 2011. 

Why is there disparity in the expenditures reported between the budget section and the spending section?

The expenditures reported in the budget section include all expenditures and are based on the posting date.  The budget section is limited to the fiscal year selected for the appropriation detail.

The expenditures reported in the spending section are only a subset of the total expenditures, must be applicable to a payee and are based on the Treasury date, which occurs after the posting date.  The spending section can include both prior and current fiscal appropriation detail.

The spending section expenditures exclude payroll postings, transactions not applicable to payees and certain expenditures that are exempt from reporting at the payee level on PennWATCH.  The exempt expenditures include social services payments, unemployment compensation, workers' compensation, property tax or rent rebate, employee benefit buyout and other entitlement programs that provide direct monetary payments to an individual.  Please refer to the Disclaimers page for additional details. 


Why are there no first names for some employees?

Under certain circumstances, employee information is exempt from public disclosure under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law.  Please refer to the Disclaimers page for additional details. 

How does salary differ from compensation?

Salary is the sum of an employee's bi-weekly salary on an annual basis.  Compensation on PennWATCH is defined according to section 303(a)(1)(i) of the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971.  Compensation is the amount paid annually to an employee as reflected on State wages box number 16 of their W-2 statement. The term includes wages, as well as overtime and other forms of payment and may exclude certain employee payments not subject to state tax.  


Why aren’t there performance measures for every budget appropriation?

The PennWATCH Act (Act 18 of 2011) requires the inclusion of performance measures for a budget appropriation if measures are available.  Agencies develop, use and report on performance measures in order to gauge the effectiveness and efficiency of their program operations and delivery.  For PennWATCH reporting purposes, agencies have identified one or more budget appropriations that relate to a particular program measure.  It is possible that certain appropriations will not have performance measures, either because the agency has not developed a performance measure for that appropriation or because the performance measure is reported under another more applicable appropriation.  Please refer to the Disclaimers page for additional details.

Why are performance measures reported for the previous fiscal year rather than for the current fiscal year?

Agencies estimate annual performance measure results based on the appropriation funding provided in the budget and then collect performance data throughout the fiscal year.  Agency program offices or outside partners collect performance data and report on full-year performance results at the end of the fiscal year.  Full-year reporting provides a more accurate representation of actual program performance. 

Where can I find additional performance information?

The commonwealth issues an Annual Report on State Performance that is available at​. This report provides details on the challenges and accomplishments of 30 commonwealth agencies. Information available in the report includes objectives, strategies and performance measures.​