Recovery.gov site has new page to fix problems

Recovery oversight board aims to improve data quality for stimulus spending

The oversight board for the federal Recovery.gov Web site announced today that is has a new page to fix errors and omissions in stimulus spending data.

The Errors, Omissions and Non-Reported Awards page allows users to download lists of significant inaccuracies known to be in previous versions of the spending database. Users can also download 12 award reports that were omitted from the spending database due to perceived inaccuracies. Finally, the list of nonreported awards includes 4,359 awards that prime recipients failed to submit, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board said.

The board is also revising its policies so that recipients can continuously correct errors in their reports. Previously, there was a 20-day window for corrections.

“This change, perhaps our most important, should vastly improve the quality of recipient data,” said Earl Devaney, the board’s chairman. He added that the Office of Management and Budget is revising its guidance to reflect the change.

The board is also dealing with two other data quality problems. In the first reporting period, many funding recipients designated the wrong congressional district in their reports. “This mistake caused us no end of headaches and confusion,” Devaney said.

To correct that situation, the board has installed an internal logic check. Effective Jan. 1, a recipient will not be allowed to enter a congressional district in a report unless it matches the ZIP code for the recipient.

In addition, some recipients mistakenly reported spending more money than they received. A new internal logic check has been installed to correct that issue.

The board created the Recovery.gov Web site earlier this year to track the $787 billion in economic stimulus law funding. On Oct. 30, it posted the most comprehensive records to date based on the latest data from all recipients who are required to file reports. The board’s goal is to foster transparency.

However, critics have questioned the accuracy and completeness of the data and the site’s accessibility. The Government Accountability Office said in a recent report that the board should correct the problems as quickly as possible.

Devaney addressed some of those problems in his statement today.

“In October, for the first time, we posted the raw data from recipients of federal contracts, grants and loans on our Web site, Recovery.gov, and there were recipient mistakes — plenty of them,” Devaney said. “Call it the downside of transparency. We expected problems and have been developing technical and content changes to help improve the quality of recipient data and streamline the reporting process for the January reporting period.”

In addition, beginning this week, the board is adding a feature that allows visitors to search for projects by keywords such as “energy” or “transportation,” and a national jobs summary page will include categories for federal departments, agencies and programs.

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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