Spending panel reins in e-government projects

The House Appropriations Committee has attached a legislative tether to e-government projects in several domestic agencies.

The panel’s version of the appropriations bill for the State, Justice and Commerce departments, as well as related agencies, for fiscal 2005 requires the administration to seek Congress’ approval to launch or squelch even minor projects in the e-government sphere.

The spending committee’s tool is section 605 of the bill that affects both funds appropriated by HR 2862 and previously appropriated money. The section requires the executive branch to seek congressional permission for starting, stopping, reorganizing, renaming or contracting out any e-government projects that fall under the three departments and several other agencies, including the Small Business Administration, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

In report language accompanying the bill, the committee said it was concerned that some agencies have not been following Congress’ reprogramming requirements, and that they have adequate authority already under existing financial transfer provisions.

The committee also expressed dismay about SBA’s Business Gateway project, and subjected it to the provisions of section 605 as well.

The White House took exception to the committee’s action, and responded with a statement of administration policy citing the benefits of e-government projects and asserting that several congressional and Government Accountability Office reports had validated their merits. The administration said it would continue to work to provide legislative support for the e-gov projects.

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