Frequently Asked Questions

Basics

What is Open FI$Cal?

Open FI$Cal is the State of California’s official financial transparency website. Managed by the Department of FI$Cal, the website offers a user-friendly interface to the state’s expenses. Using Open FI$Cal, taxpayers are able to see how their tax money is being spent.

Why did the Department of FI$Cal create the Open FI$Cal website?

Providing financial information through Open FI$Cal furthers the Department of FI$Cal’s mission to enable California’s financial accountability and integrity, promote state business efficiencies through informed decision making, and facilitate transparency. The Department is also mandated to to “include a state transparency component that allows the public to have access to information regarding General Fund, special fund, and federal fund expenditure data, using an Internet Web site” (CA GOV §11862).

In order to fulfill its mission and to comply with its legal mandate, the Department created the Open FI$Cal website. The website is intended to empower citizens to hold the state of California accountable for its spending. By making state entities’ spending transparent, the website also enables legislators to make more informed decisions.

What data is included on the website?

Open FI$Cal includes expense data from the FI$Cal accounting system. Specifically, it includes every expenditure journal line from the FI$Cal modified accrual general ledger. It also includes vendor information from the FI$Cal accounts payable module.

Is expenditure data for all state entities included on the website?

Not all state entities’ expenditure data is included on the website at this time. Please see our About Open FI$Cal page to see which entities currently have data on the website.

What state financial information is not displayed on the website?

Open FI$Cal does not display:

Where do I find California financial information that is not on the Open FI$Cal site?

Numerous state entities, including the State Controller’s Office and the Department of Finance, make California’s financial data available online. For a full list with links, please visit our Other California Financial Information page.

Data Source and Comparisons

Where does the data on this website come from?

The data on Open FI$Cal is extracted from the Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal). The FI$Cal solution utilizes Oracle’s PeopleSoft and Hyperion Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to consolidate the state’s entire financial management process into a single financial management system, encompassing budgeting, accounting, procurement, cash management, vendor management, and asset accounting functions. Open FI$Cal includes every expenditure journal line from the modified accrual general ledger, as well as vendor information from the FI$Cal accounts payable module.

What is the data update frequency?

The data on the website is updated monthly with transactions that occurred at least 60 days prior unless otherwise specified.

Who is responsible for the accuracy of the financial information displayed on this website?

The data on the website is pulled directly from the FI$Cal system. While the Department of FI$Cal is responsible for operations and maintenance of the FI$Cal system, individual state entities are responsible for entering their own data into the system. Therefore, each state entity is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of its own financial information displayed on this website.

Do the expenditures on this site match the audited numbers in the state’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) or the past year actual expenditures in the Governor’s Budget?

The data published on this website will not match other published financial statements of the state. This is primarily due to the fact that expenditures on Open FI$Cal are shown on a modified accrual basis, whereas the ACFR is based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and the prior year expenditures in the Governor’s Budget are based on California’s Budgetary-Legal basis of accounting. GAAP includes multiple bases of accounting, depending on the fund and the type of statement. The Budgetary-Legal basis, on the other hand, recognizes expenditures when funds are encumbered, or committed to a purpose. For example, signing a contract with a vendor creates an encumbrance, which is recorded in the Governor’s Budget as an expenditure. By contrast, expenditures do not appear on Open FI$Cal until the liability for the expenditure has occurred, and the state is required to make a payment.

Furthermore, the information on Open FI$Cal is unaudited, and should not be interpreted as the final official record of state expenditures.

If Open FI$Cal’s total expenditures don’t match the official statewide numbers, what is its purpose?

Official, audited numbers require a great deal of analysis after the fact to ensure their complete correctness, which means they are not available until many months after the end of a given fiscal year. The purpose of this site is to give the public and the legislature more visibility into who the state is paying and what the state is spending its money on closer to real time, so that it can be used to inform time-sensitive decisions and improve the public’s oversight of state expenditure decisions.

If I add together all the expenditures for a given time period, will that be an accurate total of how much the state spent in that period?

Expenditures shown on Open FI$Cal will generally not equal the state’s total spending for a period for a number of reasons:

Data Format

Why do expenditure totals for past months change after the month is over?

Departments have the ability to go back and adjust recent months’ expenditures after the fact as they reconcile past periods; the more recent a month is, the less likely it is to be completely closed by all departments. Open FI$Cal does not indicate whether a particular month is closed by a particular department.

Why do different departments’ data on the site begin at different times? Will you add older data? Where can I find older data?

Different departments began using FI$Cal for their accounting at different times, and FI$Cal does not maintain accounting data from before departments transitioned into FI$Cal. Those legacy datasets are in multiple different formats, and it would be impractical to attempt to consolidate them all here. For historical expenditure information, please refer to prior year Financial Reports or Governor’s Budgets, or contact the appropriate department directly.

Why are some vendor names displayed as "Confidential"?

Vendor names that are displayed as "Confidential" may contain information that is considered private, confidential, or protected under state or federal law.

For example, Open FI$Cal masks the Vendor Name for all transactions with state employees. While government employee salaries are a matter of public record, certain types of employee payments, such as disability and workers’ compensation payments, as well as payments to undercover employees, are confidential. Out of an abundance of caution, Open FI$Cal is currently masking recipient names for all employee transactions.

Furthermore, certain payments to certain vendors by certain departments are required to remain confidential. Masked payments for departments currently on Open FI$Cal are listed on our About Open FI$Cal page.

I see a vendor name that I think should be kept confidential. What do I do?

Please contact the department that paid that vendor immediately. See our Contacts page.

What do negative expenditure amounts mean?

A common reason for negative expenditures is that transactions are frequently adjusted after the fact. Once a transaction is entered into FI$Cal, it cannot be changed. Therefore, if the details of an expenditure need to be adjusted, the transaction must be reversed in a new (negative) line after the original expenditure, and then the revised expenditure with the changed information is entered as a third line. Therefore, the data frequently contains multiple lines relating to a single transaction—some positive and some negative.

There are a number of other reasons for negative expenditures, which can vary from department to department. You may see these described in the data as “Special Adjustments”, “Prior Year Adjustments”, “Internal Cost Recovery”, and “Expense Transfers” among others. Contact the department that made the expenditure for an explanation of that department’s situation.

What basis of accounting is used in the displayed data?

Open FI$Cal shows transactions using a modified accrual basis of accounting.

Site Usage

How do I search for information on the website?

You can drill down into the charts on the site by clicking on the areas of the charts you are most interested in. You can also change how the data is displayed and filtered using the “Show,” “Broken Down By,” and “Filtered By” options on the left side of the screen. On the detailed “Spending Transactions” and “Vendor Transactions” pages, you can also search for specific information in individual transaction lines using the search bar at the top of the page.

Can I download information from the website?

Yes, all the data you see on the site can be downloaded using the Download Expenditures page. Data is downloaded in CSV format, which can be opened by a spreadsheet program.

Can I bulk download a year’s worth of expenditures?

Due to the large size of the data files, you cannot download an entire year’s worth of data for the state in one file. Our Download Expenditures page allows you to download data on a month-by-month basis or on a department-by-department basis.

What can I do with the information I find on Open FI$Cal?

If you find something interesting that you want to share or inquire more about, you can click the "Share" button while viewing any table or graph to share on your Facebook or Twitter accounts, to send an email, or to download an image of the graph displayed. You can also download the underlying data to conduct your own analyses. Each transaction displays the corresponding agency that made the expenditure should you want to request additional information directly from that agency.

Can I access the data via an Application Programming Interface (API)?

The data on Open FI$Cal is also available at California's Open Data Portal, which allows the data to be accessed via an API.

Contacts

Who do I contact if I have questions or want more information about the information displayed on the website?

For general questions about the site or the format of the data, contact FI$Cal at transparency@fiscal.ca.gov. If you have questions and/or comments regarding specific data, please contact the appropriate state entity using the information listed on our Contacts page.