The Stimulus Bill contains an enormous number of reporting requirements. For example, Stimulus dollars have to be accounted separately, and agencies must separately report on who gets the dollars, including subcontractors or sub-grantees, and how many jobs are created. Programs, agencies, OMB, and the new, $84 million Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board (see p. 175 of the bill) are all required to report on the progress of spending, often on different timetables. In fact, according to new OMB guidance, there are eight levels of reporting that are now required, with the first report from agencies due March 3rd!
There is a risk of creating, at least on paper, a parallel government – the regular government and the Stimulus government — programs (and dollars) being funded via Stimulus dollars. The Stimulus spending ($787 billion) is almost the size of a “regular” annual budget (about $990 billion in discretionary spending in 2009, once you back out interest on the debt and entitlement programs).
The Bill includes over $300 million in additional oversight monies to make sure the Stimulus funds are being spent appropriately. In addition, millions more have been set aside for administrative tracking of funds by federal agencies, and even more has been set aside to support administrative tracking requirements at the state and local levels.
In many cases, Stimulus dollars are being dumped into existing, ongoing programs in order to get the dollars out quickly. But this creates a dilemma – how do you separately account for Stimulus dollars being used to accelerate an existing construction project, including accounting for which subcontractors are being paid with which pot of dollars?
This could be seen as an enormous reporting burden, or an opportunity to completely rethink how reporting is done. After all, Team Obama – the campaign staff – was rated as the most innovative organization in 2008 by FastCompany magazine. Can they bring this spirit into the government? Here are some possible directions:
A recent McKinsey Quarterly article, “Six Ways to Make Web 2.0 Work,” offers some approaches that may provide some useful strategic direction. For example, the only way an organization can successfully employ Web 2.0 tools – which require bottom-up participation – is for leadership to become role models and lead in its use through informal channels.
Yesterday, OMB convened hundreds of agency personnel from across the government at the DOI auditorium to explain their new reporting requirements. The statutory requirements are complicated, but they are using new approaches, such as the MAX Budget Community wiki, to share information and move quickly.
In addition, www.Recovery.gov is an exciting new approach. If you haven’t looked at it, it’s worth the visit. Will agencies move toward real time reporting of contracts? The law requires reporting within 30 days, but why not when the contract is signed? What about the use of wikis to share best practices and to draft common administrative requirements? What about allowing others to download the spending data and create their own mashups? These and other ideas will likely float forward. In fact, these kinds of ideas may be the only way the government can actually meet the requirements of both getting the money out to quickly create jobs, and ensuring the monies are not wasted.
Tags: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, FastCompany, HR 1, MAX budget community, McKinsey Quarterly, OMB guidance, PL 111-5, Recovery Act, Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board, stimulus bill, web 2.0, www.recovery.gov