By Andrew Seifter, Good Jobs First
Earl Devaney, who as Chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board oversaw implementation of the Recovery Act’s revolutionary accountability measures, is retiring.
A longtime civil servant with a breadth of experience in law enforcement, Devaney proved during his tenure on the Recovery Board that enhanced transparency not only keeps the public informed of the costs and benefits of government spending projects; it also prevents waste and fraud.
While law enforcement officials still aggressively use the full weight of the law to go after instances of fraud, the bright light that the Recovery Act has shined on the flow of funds has made scammers think twice before trying to cheat Uncle Sam. As Devaney recently told the Washington Post, “I think this [Recovery Act] money was so transparent that guys that really commit big frauds … didn’t come near this money.” Recovery.gov director Michael Wood has similarly credited transparency for the Recovery Act’s “very low non-compliance rate” and “extremely low” fraud rate.
Devaney’s work is also a testament to the bipartisan nature of support for spending transparency and accountability. Even on an issue as politically polarizing as the Recovery Act, Devaney’s efforts to police stimulus funds are respected on both sides of the aisle. How many other officials in Washington, upon announcing their retirement, could draw effusive praise from both Vice President Biden and Republican Congressman Darrell Issa?
In addition to leaving the Recovery Board, Devaney is also resigning as Chairman of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB), the institution President Obama created this year and tasked with expanding the Recovery Act’s transparency measures to all federal spending. In his resignation letter, Devaney hinted that the GATB is “on the verge of proposing concrete methods to increase accountability and transparency of all Federal funds.”
On November 21, Devaney devoted his final Recovery.gov “Chairman’s Corner” column to making the case for a “uniform government-wide award identification number” for federal spending. This administrative restructuring, he argued, is essential for full spending transparency and will save the government both time and money. We’ll see if this recommendation is part of the forthcoming GATB proposal that he referenced.
No doubt a very busy man, there is one other position that Devaney is stepping down from before riding off into the sunset: Inspector General of the Interior Department. Among his many accomplishments while serving in that post, which he’s held since 1999, Devaney oversaw investigations that led to the well-publicized conviction of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.