Only a small part of stimulus spending will be reported, coalition says

About $6 billion reported so far of $356 billion obligated to date

The list of federal economic stimulus law contracts to be released in two days will show only a “small sliver” of the law's overall obligations of $356 billion to date, members of a transparency advocacy coalition said today.

About $6 billion in federal contracts awarded under the law will be published on Oct. 15 on the Recovery.gov federal Web site, members of the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery said in a news conference.

Another $204 billion in obligated funds for grants and loans will be released on the Web site on Oct. 30. Under the law, $63 billion in tax breaks and $83 billion in entitlement payments obligated to date will not be disclosed publicly.

Overall, the coalition anticipates $275 billion in grants, loans and contracts from the economic stimulus law to be released on Recovery.gov, while $512 billion in tax breaks and entitlements will not be released over the entire term of the stimulus spending.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch and a coalition member. “What you will see on Oct. 15 is a small sliver. More than half of the expenditures will not be reported.”

Bass said although the coalition members have concerns about data completeness, accessibility and quality, they consider the law to be groundbreaking in terms of improving the transparency of government spending.

“The [stimulus law] is the most transparent spending bill ever enacted,” Bass said. “It is a watershed.” In addition to disclosing federal data on the Recovery.gov Web site, the law is also exerting a “powerful effect” on enhancing state transparency efforts, he added.

Under the law, primary and secondary recipients of federal funds — typically, a federal agency and a state agency — must report details about how those funds were spent, including descriptions of the projects, where they occurred, and how many jobs were created.

The transparency advocates would like improvements, including reporting from final recipients and additional subrecipients; reporting on recipients of tax breaks and entitlements; more comprehensive jobs data; and better data quality, Bass said. To enhance data quality, the spending and obligation figures ought to be reconciled with the Treasury's actual spending, he suggested.

The reports on Recovery.gov also will contain a few new items, coalition members said. For example, for the first time some contractors will have to publicly report executive compensation for their five top executives. The requirement applies to private firms who receive 80 percent of their revenues from federal contracts and that have revenues of at least $25 million a year.

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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