Stimulus money site pressed for time

The Recovery.gov Web site for tracking spending under the economic stimulus law has enough money, but is pressed for time, according to the chairman of the site's oversight board.

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board is pushing to set up an online reporting system on Recovery.gov for the $787 billion in stimulus money by Oct. 10 when the spending data starts arriving from federal agencies, said Earl Devaney, the board's chairman, after a House hearing May 5.

Congress gave the board $84 million for the reporting, which Devaney said is enough to establish the data warehouse and centralized online reporting system.

“I have enough money,” Devaney said. “Money is not the constraint. Time is the constraint, and it is unusual to say that in government.”

Devaney told the House Science and Technology Committee's Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee that the Recovery.gov site is “evolving and developing,” although it does not now have data on specific contracts.

“It will have to be ready to receive data by Oct. 10,” Devaney said. “We have a challenge here to move very quickly.”

The oversight board is sorting through more than 400 ideas received from information technology experts in an online forum to help set up the online centralized reporting system and data warehouse for Recovery.gov, Devaney said.

After those ideas are reviewed, the board intends to invite vendors to discuss their solutions and bid for contracts in a competitive process, he said.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), the subcommittee's ranking member, said the Office of Management and Budget should require reporting of all contracts and subcontracts for a more complete picture. Currently, most funds will be tracked from federal agencies to states, but not further down the line from states and localities to contractors and subcontractors.

“If I could wave a magic wand, I would like to follow the dollars from cradle to grave,” Devaney said. OMB is re-evaluating the issue and might update its guidance, he added.

Eric Gillespie, chief information officer at Onvia Inc., which has set up a private Recovery.org Web site to report on the money, said establishing a federal system to record and track all contracts and subcontracts by October is an extremely difficult task.

Each of the 50 states and tens of thousands of localities have different reporting systems to track incoming funds, obligations and contracts. Developing a system that can accommodate that variety but still produce centralized reporting is a huge challenge, he added.

“I think it would be impossible for government to do it" by October, Gillespie said after the hearing.

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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