New rules to be released for stimulus reporting
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Apr 02, 2009
Federal agencies will get a second round of reporting requirements tomorrow to provide more transparency and more frequent updates on how the $787 billion from the economic stimulus law is spent, a senior official testified at a Senate hearing today.
Agencies have obligated about $51 billion of the money in grants, loans and contracts, up from $15 billion a month ago, Robert Nabors, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
OMB will release guidance tomorrow to require recipients of the money to provide more detailed weekly reports on the spending, including reporting of all contracts and subcontracts, Nabors said.
Meanwhile, White House officials and an oversight board are working to centralize federal, state and local reporting of the spending into searchable databases on Recovery.gov. “We are taking numerous steps toward effective implementation of the [law],” Nabors said.
He said the second round of guidance adds new requirements for contracts and subcontracts, partly in response to concerns raised by lawmakers that transparency wouldn't be enough without that information. The first round was released in February.
“For [stimulus] contracts — which total about $60 billion — we will be able to track federal contracts awarded, how prime contractors are using the funds and information on any subcontracts they award,” Nabors said.
To date, nearly 500 stimulus-related contracting notices and 71 grant opportunities have been posted, he said.
The guidance also will ask agencies to provide more detailed weekly reports with information on performance and oversight of the spending. OMB has developed a template for the reporting, including data collection methods, standard data definitions and a process in which recipient information will be posted on Recovery.gov.
OMB will oversee development of a central collection system for recipient reporting, Nabors said. That approach will “lower governmentwide system modification costs, improve the consistency and availability of data, and alleviate reporting burdens for recipients by establishing a central collection point,” he said.
Nabors said OMB is considering whether to include guidance to help state governments comply with the Recovery.gov reporting requirements, including the possibility of using existing allocations for administrative funding in specific programs.
However, at the moment, Recovery.gov is incomplete, said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who urged that the Web site undergo an overhaul. “Recovery.gov right now is a nothing. There is nothing there,” he said.
Earl Devaney, who is chairman of the board overseeing Recovery.gov, agreed that the site still needs work and said he intends to hold a public session to seek input from software developers and technology experts on the best way to structure and present the site's information.
Nabors said he envisions Recovery.gov providing a searchable database of all government spending. “Recovery.gov, in my wildest dreams, will be a model to update financial systems,” he said. "It won’t just be able to track stimulus dollars in almost real time but also overall federal spending."
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.