GAO: Obama administration website on stimulus spending fails on transparency

The website used to track stimulus spending does not meet the transparency requirements laid out by the administration last year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

According to the 400-page report, only a quarter of the projects listed on Recovery.gov provide clear and complete information on the cost, schedule, purpose, location and status of stimulus-funded work. Most of the entries on the site provide some of that information, but 7 percent of the entries provide little to no information about how stimulus dollars are being spent, the report said. The study was conducted at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The report notes that agencies that received guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on what information to include in the stimulus reports tended to have more complete data on the website. The report cited a transit award used to purchase hybrid buses as an example of clear, transparent reporting, in contrast to a highway award for "chip sealing" that failed to explain what the practice is or why it is being used.

"It's clear this was a very large undertaking," Kate Siggerud, co-author of the report and managing director of physical infrastructure issues at GAO, told Nextgov. "OMB provided good guidance and relied on individual agencies to do more to tell their recipients to provide useful information to Recovery.gov."

While the majority of the $275 billion in stimulus dollars set aside for grants, contracts and loans has already been awarded, GAO still recommended that OMB provide better guidance to agencies on what information they should report on spending projects. The management of Recovery.gov is being closely watched because the site has long been viewed as a test case for USASpending.gov, the site that tracks all federal spending.

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