Officials struggle with data for Recovery.gov

Tracking the spending from the $787 billion economic stimulus package is proving difficult because of shortcomings in the available data, the chairman of the stimulus act oversight board said today.

“I am concerned about data quality,” said Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. “The federal government’s systems have never been fully successful at producing timely and reliable data.”

Congress created the oversight board to monitor spending and help prevent fraud under the economic stimulus law. The board is responsible for developing the Recovery.gov Web site to collect data from federal, state and local agencies to show how the money is being spent.

The board will hold its first meeting next week. Meanwhile, the Office of Management and Budget has been operating Recovery.gov, which is receiving about 4,000 hits from the public every second, Devaney said.

The board will begin assessing additional data requirements and tools for funding recipients when OMB turns over control of the Web site in 45 days, he added.

The board wants Recovery.gov to present data that is as comprehensive as possible and user-friendly.

“We are trying to strike a balance,” Devaney said. “It should be complicated enough to see where the money went but simple enough so that Mr. and Mrs. Smith from Ohio will want to visit the Web site again.” Recovery.gov should be attractive and easy to access rather than designed for accountants, he added.

“Recovery.gov is not currently a usable database,” said Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), the committee's chairman. “I fully recognize the difficulties in this task, but this funding needs uniform standards for all reporting of information.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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