Devaney: Stimulus tracking technology the model for government transparency

Devaney said the media's focus on criminal indictments in response to Recovery Act fraud is misplaced, since the Board's focus is on preventing waste and fraud before they occur. He said the analytical tools used in the Recovery Board's state-of-the-art command center focus on intercepting fraud before it happens, but said prosecutions would eventually emerge.

"Simply put, the Board's skilled analysts look for early warning signs of trouble. They use the software to search colossal amounts of data, looking for potential problems such as criminal convictions, lawsuits, tax liens, bankruptcies, risky financial deals, and suspension and debarment proceedings."

Devaney also praised the Recovery Board's IT team for its innovative approach to developing a centralized reporting system for agencies receiving stimulus funds (FederalReporting.gov) and a website that allows the public to track how the money is spent (Recovery.gov). He said both sites have been running smoothly and have raised the bar for accountability, usability and transparency in the government.

The Board is currently engaged in a second round of focus group and usability testing for Recovery.gov in cities such as Detroit and Phoenix, with the goal of improving the site and providing further detail to users tracking stimulus funds. According to a July report from the Government Accountability Office, less than a quarter of the projects on the site include comprehensive data on cost, schedule, purpose and location.

Devaney said the biggest challenge he has faced is the lack of a single, consistent, government-wide system to number contract and grant awards. He said every agency currently has its own alphanumeric coding system, hampering efforts to track spending across multiple agencies.

"While this may not sound like a big deal, it is," Devaney said. "I have therefore decided to dedicate a considerable portion of my remaining time in the government to fixing this problem."

Danny Werfel, controller in the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Financial Management, used his opening statement to detail the administration's efforts to crack down on the almost $110 billion in improper payments made during fiscal year 2009.

A recent memorandum from President Obama established a "Do Not Pay List" through which agencies can check the status of a potential contractor or individual by searching multiple government databases at once. Werfel said the administration is also hiring contractors that use sophisticated software tools to identify overpayments that can be recovered. The goal is to recover at least $2 billion in improper payments over the next three years.