Recently, Sunlight filed our first FOIA lawsuit against the GSA to get 14 years of data - we got almost everything we wanted, but some info was withheld. Now we've got all the data - and no black redaction bars!Continue reading
Good enough for government work? The contractors building Obamacare
The Obama administration dreamed that its health insurance exchanges--the websites that were supposed to make it easy to buy health insurance--would function as smoothly as online consumer sites like Expedia or Amazon.com. But as head-scratching continues about how a famously web-savvy administration could have flubbed its Internet homework so badly, an examination by the Sunlight Foundation shows the administration turned the task of building its futuristic new health care technology planning and programming over to legacy contractors with deep political pockets.
One result: Problem-plagued online exchanges that make it all but impossible for consumers to buy insurance and ...Continue reading
Adventures in Government Contracting
As part of our initiative around procurement, we've been meeting with several experts, inside and outside the government, to get a broad perspective on contracting in the federal government. Many agree that federal procurement suffers from problems, whether it's over-budget, over-time contracts, the limited pool of government contractors, or the over-reliance of government on contractors to perform core governmental functions. What is the real source of these problems and how can we overcome them? Well the answer is pretty complicated, but over the last several weeks, the picture is coming into focus. Across all of these conversations we've had, there are several themes that have consistently stood out. Since we're making an effort to blog about our work as we go, I wanted to step back and summarize what we've learned. While there will be a host of problems specific to one agency or type of procurement, these themes seem to apply across the government, and aren't necessarily as earth-shattering as you might think.Continue reading
Over 170k Award Notices Missing From FedBizOpps
As part of our recent procurement initiative, I've been playing around with the data present in FedBizOpps, ( or FBO.gov) -- it’s the single point of entry for posting all government solicitations, award notices, and various other informational notices regarding government contracts. In short, all contracts awarded must be reported here. What is immediately striking is that the number of awards posted to FedBizOpps does not come even remotely close to the number of awards in USASpending.gov -- the database that tracks contract spending. FedBizOpps reports a mere 8,138 contracts awarded for 2012, while USASpending reports 178,375 contract awards for that same year. Common sense tells us that the number of contracts in each database should match. The fact that they don’t is a mystery at the moment, but the problem could be due to broadly defined exceptions, or even poor reporting and oversight as we've seen in other cases involving government reporting. In order to see specifics in the data and run an analysis, I extracted the data into a postgresql database. The data source I used is an XML file on fbo.gov's FTP server, which seems to include data from the last 13 years.Continue reading