Watchdog group to launch site on fed spending

OMB Watch

The watchdog group OMB Watch is hosting a prototype of the federal government’s mandated online database of federal spending. The Web site, FedSpending.org, launches Oct. 10.

The building of a searchable public Web site is required by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which President Bush signed Sept. 26. The act mandates that the site be ready by Jan. 1, 2008.

“OMB Watch is already online with the goods,” Bill Allison, senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, said today at a pre-screening of the site for the media. The foundation has helped fund the Web site.

FedSpending.org details where federal contracts and grants go and gives in-depth information on who receives them.

“You have a right to know how the federal government spends its money,” the home page states.

FedSpending.org relies on getting data largely from the Federal Procurement Data System, which contains information about federal contracts, and the Federal Assistance Award Data System, which has information about federal financial assistance such as grants, loans and direct subsidies such as Social Security, according to OMB Watch.

OMB Watch said it started developing the Web site after years of frustration over being unable to obtain this information.

The foundation granted OMB Watch $300,000 over three years for the work. OMB Watch spent $200,000 setting up the site, said Adam Hughes, the group’s director of federal fiscal policy.

The government is expected to spend more money on its site. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the government would spend up to $15 million from fiscal years 2007 to 2011 on the database, according to a report from August.

OMB Watch skipped the “bells and whistles” in order to get the site online sooner, said Gary Bass, executive director of the organization.

“We are committed to getting information out to the public,” he said.

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