Posts Tagged ‘Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board’

Transparency Pot Shots

July 20, 2009

recovery1The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board estimates that about 200,000 entities (state agencies, localities, companies, non-profits) will be entering data into the website.

Anybody can look up every expenditure reported. But how do you ensure clarity and accuracy? Will media or others take pot shots without attempting to follow through on unclear information that’s been posted?

Today, the answer is “yes.”  Drudge Report started posting some odd-looking entries into the system with alarming headlines, such as:  “AWARDED: $1,191,200 FOR ‘2 POUND FROZEN HAM SLICED’ “  This led to a quick scramble by the Department of Agriculture to explain

“The references to “2 pound frozen ham sliced” are to the sizes of the packaging. Press reports suggesting that the Recovery Act spent $1.191 million to buy “2 pounds of ham” are wrong. In fact, the contract in question purchased 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.191 million, at a cost of approximately $1.50 per pound.”

Is it up to the data submitter (in this case, Clougherty Packing, LLC), the reporter, or the government to ensure clarity or context?  Doing data quality control over 200,000 separate submitters and still allow relatively “real time” access to data is probably impossible.  Will a political “gotcha” atmosphere temper the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase transparency?  Or is this just the price of getting it right?

As Recovery Board chairman Earl Devaney notes in his first blog post today:  “Think of as a “New Dawn” in transparency and accountability. To my way of thinking, the government will have to follow this model in future spending. The public will not accept any less, and you shouldn’t.”


RAT Board Chair Named

February 23, 2009

The Stimulus Bill is big on accountability and action on this front seems to be moving quickly, maybe even quicker than action on implementation of the bill itself!


Last week, President Obama set the tone in a meeting with mayors:


So I want to be clear about this:  We cannot tolerate business as usual — not in Washington, not in our state capitols, not in America’s cities and towns.  We will use the new tools that the recovery act gives us to watch the taxpayers’ money with more rigor and transparency than ever.   If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it and put a stop to it.


Today, President Obama is expected to send a similar message to governors in town for their annual meeting.


Also today, according to blogger Marc Ambinder, the President is expected to announce the appointment of Earl Devaney as chair of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RAT Board).  The Board, comprised of at least 10 agency inspectors general, will have a budget of $84 million.  In addition, the inspectors general received an additional $233 million in increases in their budgets under the Stimulus Bill.


Devaney is the former inspector general of the Department of the Interior where he led the investigation to uncover the Jack Abramoff scandal. He had a long federal career “putting away bad guys.”  In 2006, he talked to the Federal Times about his approach to  measuring an IG’s effectiveness:


 It’s unfortunate that over the years success has typically been measured in numbers. I think it’s a whole different world now. I think we should be able to articulate the value our audits and investigations have on changing behavior and the practice of the department in a way that makes it work better.”