Coalition Continues Push for Full Disclosure in Recovery Act

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The Coalition for an Accountable Recovery (CAR), co-chaired by OMB Watch and Good Jobs First, is continuing its effort to get the Obama Administration to adopt broad disclosure policies in connection with the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). CAR has just submitted comments on the latest draft policies issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the data collection that will take place for ARRA contracts and grants.  The data will form the foundation of the disclosure that the administration has vowed to provide through its Recovery.gov website.

recoverydotgov

CAR acknowledges that significant progress has been made in the two months since President Obama signed the law, but we argue that the proposed OMB procedures need clarification and adjustment.

One of the biggest issues is the scope of the required reporting. We recommend that OMB collect data from all entities (excluding individuals) that receive a contract or award involving ARRA funds—whether it comes directly from the federal government, from a state agency or via a subcontract or subaward from a federal or state contractor or awardee. The cutoff would be any payment of $25,000 or less. Only through such extensive reporting, we maintain, will it be possible to get a complete picture of ARRA money flows and economic impacts.

To enable this process, we argue that every recipient of ARRA funds should enroll with the federal government’s Central Contractor Registration system and be assigned a unique identification code.

Since job creation is the paramount objective of ARRA, we recommend that all recipients be required to report on the number of jobs created or saved. Since job quality is as important as job quantity, we also argue that recipients should be required to report data on average wages and health insurance coverage.

Apart from job issues, we urge OMB to ensure that agencies collect other relevant performance data on the impacts of ARRA spending.

To add an additional level of openness, we recommend that OMB require that all Recovery Act RFPs, contracts (with any necessary redactions), bids and waivers be made available to the public, including those involving contracts and grants awarded by the states.

We also ask that OMB expand the amount of data that federal agencies include in their weekly financial reports and that they provide electronic data feeds to the public.

With steps such as these, we believe, the Obama Administration can live up to its promise to provide unprecedented transparency and accountability in this massive expenditure of taxpayer funds.

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