The Recovery Act has challenged the federal government, and the recipients of stimulus monies, to publicly report: the disbursement of funds, progress, results, what was spent, and who received it. This degree of reporting has not been done for regular grants, contracts, or loans. So this is a new challenge for multiple players, and a big risk for the Obama Administration since it has so much at stake in getting this right.
Government Executive’s Robert Brodsky, in his article “Untangling the Recovery” has an interesting take on this: “. . . Obama has staked the economic resurgence squarely on the shoulders of the oft-maligned civil service. Career employees will be in the trenches, gauging project costs, designing programs, issuing contracts, and performing audits. In other words, it’s on them to make sure the largest recovery effort in history does not fail.”
There is wide recognition that implementing the Recovery Act effectively will not be easy. The unprecedented transparency being touted has set expectations high among both the public and the Congress. In fact, tracking the money will likely be a key element of success, and not just whether the economy recovers.
OMB will be posting additional guidance next week on how to report the number of jobs being created, and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board will be sending out a request for proposals to redesign its website in response to criticisms that it does not provide the level of transparency promised by the law. However, the real test of the Recovery Act tracking site won’t come until the October 10th required reporting deadline, there are already a number of other ways to keep up with what’s going on. Government Executive magazine has started a list of alternative tracking sites you might find interesting to visit.
- Recovery.org: Market research firm Onvia provides a window on local-level stimulus activity, down to the county level.
- Usbudgetwatch.org/stimulus: includes an interactive chart of funding, including Treasury’s TARP financial bailout monies.
- Shovelwatch.org: an aggregation of other Recovery Act news sites, sponsored by ProPublica, which allows you to sign up to be a Stimulus Project Watcher in your community (must be like a Neighborhood Watch).
- Staterecovery.org: an aggregation of Recovery Act news, timelines, opportunities, and best practices, sponsored by the Council of State Government.
- Usmayors.org/recovery: tracking and implementation assistance for cities, sponsored by the US Conference of Mayors.
- Keeping Track: The Association for Government Accountants has created an aggregated resource site for its members that brings together the many significant communications on implementation of the Recovery Act.
Critics say, why not just adopt something like recovery.org rather than having the government spend money to build its own recovery.gov? Well, there are statutory requirements in the Recovery Act that these sites don’t (and probably can’t) address, and then in addition, there are other federal laws these sites don’t address, such as being compliant with Section 508, FISMA, Paperwork Reduction, IT security, etc.
By the way, CNNMoney.com’s “Bailout Tracker” is a terrific resource that lays out the total amount of monies going to the economic recovery. Seems the Recovery Act money that everyone is focusing on — $787 billion – is only a fraction of the nearly $10.5 Trillion committed!