Making our data come to life

tableauHere at Audit Scotland we’ve been thinking about different ways to present our findings and data. The way people access information through the internet is changing, with greater use of attractive features. We wanted to bring some of these to our own work to make our information more interactive, engaging and accessible.

A perfect opportunity arose through our recent Major Capital Investment in Councils report. As part of the audit we had asked councils for information on all their capital investment projects over £5 million. We had also compiled information from the external auditors and the annual accounts on how these infrastructure projects are funded.

We used the data to give a Scotland-wide view, but there was a lot of extra material that wasn’t used in the report on specific  projects and individual councils’ funding methods which we thought others might find useful and interesting. There was a lot of interest in it when we presented the report’s findings to the 7th Annual Scottish Capital Investment and Infrastructure Conference. So we opted for the data analysis and visualisation software Tableau to create an interactive exhibit on our website – you can have a look at it here. The exhibit is made up of four dashboards that visitors drill deeper into the numbers in the report such as by clicking on council on the map or else the categories in the graphs.

What we found is that the interactivity highlights data and trends that might be missed in a big table of information. Not only does the software make data look great it also does the analysis quicker than what we have done in the past. We are now thinking of whether Tableau could be used to help us scope our performance audits.

We hope this gives people a better understanding of how the public pound is spent in Scotland. And it may help councils and other public bodies make useful comparisons and help sharing of best practice.

This is the first time Audit Scotland has tried a new output like this so it wasn’t without its challenges. As with all our work it is important that the information we present is accurate and because of the level of detail in the exhibit compared to the report we agreed the factual accuracy with all councils before publishing the exhibit.

We’re looking at other ways we might develop this format so it would be great to hear your feedback.

About the author

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Ashleigh Madjitey is an Audit Officer in Audit Scotland’s Performance Audit & Best Value group. She was part of the audit team on the Major Capital Investment in Councils report and has also audited Argyll & Bute Council and broadband infrastructure investment.

 

3 thoughts on “Making our data come to life

  1. Really interesting analysis of councils’ investment in major projects. There must be many other areas of public sector expenditure where Audit Scotland could provide similar insights

    1. Thanks for your feedback Callum. We’re currently looking at ways to build on our use of interactive graphics, and are planning to use Tableau to present some of the data from our recent Overview of Local Government in Scotland. We’ll be publicising any updates on this via our social media media channels in the future- so watch this space!

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