The project involved submitting Access to Information requests of public government for expenses incurred for a conference held 2,000 kilometres away in Ottawa. The response turned up expenses for around a dozen different departments, with expenses detailed for around 70 different employees, itemized over several spreadsheets.
For cabinet, the response included more than 30 individual photocopies of invoices which we meticulously reviewed as we pieced together exactly how much the government spent on this trip, and what it spent its money on.
The story was for a territorial audience in Nunavut, and served to hold the government accountable for its spending.
As we are a public broadcaster, we did not have a monetization plan for this project.
What makes this project innovative?
There was nothing explicitly revolutionary in terms of the methods we used in gathering the data. This was just good old-fashioned journalism, compiling the raw data we were given into spreadsheets to create a narrative. We also categorized each expense, and combed through each photocopy of the invoices to sort through the government's spending. For instance, by reviewing the particular invoices individually, we learned that the government spent $1,800 on car fares in one day for an 800-metre ride.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
Following our project, the Nunavut government acknowledged in its Legislature that its spending could have been better managed. Furthermore, as a result of our reporting, Nunavut's premier was ousted by a non-confidence vote, after he had lied in the house on whether the attendance of his cabinet at the conference was mandatory. While this story was not the only reason for his ousting, it was one of the factors cited in the Legislature when MLAs argued in favour of the motion to remove him from power.
Source and methodology
The data was gathered through Access to Information requests, compiled in Excel spreadsheets, and verified against individual invoices provided by the government.