A Transparent and Accountable Recovery


In the wake of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and while Congress debates the massive stimulus bill,  the  Coalition for an Accountable Recovery was created to promote accountability for both federal government agencies doling out the trillions of dollars,  for the states and for the companies that benefit from recovery funds. The best way to assure taxpayers that the funds are being used responsibly is to provide “radical” transparency on stimulus spending and to make the details of the stimulus available in online, in real time.

No great surprise to here that the Coalition (of which Sunlight is a member)  is calling on Congress to require online reporting that allows the public to easily search, sort, track and download data on the use of recovery. Each state should be required to report on all funds they receive and all data should be presented in a uniform manner, making sure it is compatible with the USASpending.gov Web site. The Coalition has also state that   the newest technology should be applied to both the Recovery.gov Web site and USASpending.gov to make the information more accessible for everyone

Sunlight has joined the over 30  groups as part of the coalition, including the Center for Responsive Politics, Common Cause, National Institute for Money in State Politics, OMB Watch, OpenTheGovernment.org, Project on Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Commonsense.

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  • Rand

    Thanks Greg,

    I really hope your vision becomes a reality as it would be nice to know all of that. And since I don’t know the technical details of how usaspending.gov works, I’ll take your word that it couldn’t have been enhanced to deliver that additional information to the public.

    Recovery.gov and FinancialStability.gov are just 2 new examples of a disjointed USG web presence. The GSA regulations about web site naming conventions say that “canonical names registration request must provide access coverage for the areas conveyed by the name.” (just another of the multitude of rules that us web folk have to play by).

    So, with FinancialStabilitiy.gov, will they report on the health of the US economy and its financial stability? Will it provide access to any government programs to help citizens and businesses become more financially stable? etc.

    I hope that they do provide those other aspects of government service to the citizens. I know you agree, there’s more to serving the public than just data.

  • Thanks, Greg. I’m glad you folks are thinking proactively.

    Here at EPA, we’re thinking about how we can use the same databases to spit out customized reports connected to recovery.gov.

  • Rand, Jeffrey:

    Compatibility with USASpending.gov is one of the simple asks from the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery.

    Spending from the Stimulus package will show up in USASpending.gov, but only at the Federal contract level. USASpending.gov is designed to make search-able and use-able data from the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) that is, pretty much all Federal contracts (e.g., procurements).

    But there’s more transparency to be had than just tracking Federal contracts. There’s tracking spending by the projects themselves. There’s tracking the impact of the spending. There’s tracking what people say is happening and what actually is happening. There’s a lot that can be done to follow the Stimulus Package spending online that would not apply to everything in USASpending.gov.

    Unfortunately, Congress has been vague about what it expects Recovery.gov to provide that is different from USASpending.gov, so sadly there is a risk that we end up with redundant systems rather than mutually enhancing systems that APIs and open data practices make possible.

  • Creating whole new websites, with whole new reporting processes, doesn’t strike me as the best use of limited taxpayer money.

    Why not use existing information in grants.gov and usaspending.gov? Maybe create some new reports for stuff that’s tagged as being part of the recovery effort?

    Otherwise, we end up paying for the same information three times.

    We really need to get away from the model of “I have an idea for something I want to know – let’s create a new website!”

  • Rand

    I love accountability and transparency! I also love common sense and spending the taxpayers money wisely! So why do we need a separate website with all of its infrastructure and personnel costs when we have usaspending.gov? (caveat: I have never worked for the Sunlight Foundation or any organization that had a hand in building usaspending.gov).

    You know better than I do but all agencies have to report all contracts, assistance and grants to usaspending.gov.

    Now all agencies will also have to report a sub-set of their contracts, grants, etc. to recovery.gov.

    Agencies also have reporting responsibilities to report grants to grants.gov.

    So, what is wrong with usaspending.gov? Why is there a need to build a whole new website? Why spend money on building a new website when that money could be spent on improving usaspending.gov? Why do citizens have to go to 2 different sites to find spending information? Why do citizens have to learn how to use 2 different sites?

    Excuse me but this doesn’t exactly sound like transparency!