Accountability for Government Spending

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A week ago, I blogged about the launch of the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery (CAR). The coalition (of which Sunlight is a member) formed to promote accountability for the  federal government agencies doling out the trillions of dollars, for the states and for the companies that benefit from recovery funds. CAR’s vision for a national system to collect and disseminate data on government spending is here (pdf).

It’s worth delving into that document. Its bottom line: CAR is calling for online reporting that allows the public to easily search, sort, track and download data on the use of funds from the massive Stimulus Bill.

The document proposes  USASpending.gov, the federal Web site that discloses information about nearly all government spending, as the “data house” for the Recovery Act (and other government) spending. But as Greg Elin, Sunlight’s chief evangelist, in a comment to my blog, wrote,  that might not be enough: “Spending from the Stimulus package will show up in USASpending.gov, but only at the federal contract level.”

Clearly a system needs to be in place to track the spending and all of its impacts. We should be able to know what’s happening with the money at all levels and all stages. Thus far, Congress has been far too vague about what it expects the online sites to provide. And we want to make sure we end up with a system that provides the most transparency and accountability as possible.

Be sure to check CAR.

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