--For Immediate Release--
September 10, 2009
OMB Watch Releases Recovery Act Transparency Status Report
This week, Recovery Act transparency will begin to take center stage. Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on stimulus spending, the Council of Economic Advisors will release its report on Recovery Act job creation, and the Government Accountability Office prepares to release its third bimonthly report on Recovery Act implementation and transparency. To highlight strengths and weaknesses of disclosure and accountability in Recovery Act spending, OMB Watch is releasing a comprehensive report on Recovery Act transparency.
This report, "Recovery Act Transparency: Implementation and Current Issues," details essential elements of Recovery Act transparency, including recipient reporting, program effectiveness assessment, and data accessibility issues. It makes a number of recommendations to improve Recovery Act accountability.
The three most important recommendations address multi-tier reporting, performance metrics, and job creation data:
- Multi-tier Reporting. Until OMB requires that all recipients of Recovery Act funds over $25,000 report on their use of those funds, President Obama's pledge that "…every American will be able to go online and see where and how we're spending every dime" will not be realized. Current recipient reporting requirements are limited to prime recipients and the first tier of sub-recipients. Doubtless, billions of Recovery Act dollars will flow into the hands of contractors beyond first-tier subcontractors and out of view of the public and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. OMB must require all entities receiving Recovery Act funds, even through sub-awards, to report on use of those funds.
- Performance Metrics. Neither the Recovery Act nor OMB guidelines require that performance data on Recovery Act funded projects be collected. Yet Congress and the Obama administration identified a number of benchmarks they hope will be achieved with Recovery Act funds. Without the collection of measures to assess whether such benchmarks are being achieved, citizens and policy makers will be unable to assess the effectiveness of Recovery Act programs. OMB must require agencies to properly identify benchmarks and begin the collection of information from recipients of Recovery Act funds on performance. The Recovery Act is largely about helping those most in need. Hence, performance metrics must also include key equity measures.
- Job Creation Data. Recovery Act transparency requires that in addition to counting the number of jobs that are created by the Act, the quality of those jobs must also be assessed. Information on wage levels, availability of health coverage, and demographic information about people hired will enable citizens and policy makers to measure how the Recovery Act is impacting workers. Improving job quality and targeting workers who have been displaced by the economy should be essential elements of economic stimulus, and collecting these data is crucial to guiding and alerting policy makers to improving the nation's employment woes.
Currently, none of these three critical aspects is part of Recovery Act transparency, and this new report calls for their inclusion as the nation moves towards recovery.
The report can be found at http://www.ombwatch.org/files/budget/Transparency%20in%20the%20Recovery%20Act.pdf.
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OMB Watch is a nonprofit government watchdog organization dedicated to promoting government accountability, citizen participation in public policy decisions, and the use of fiscal and regulatory policy to serve the public interest.