OMB issues transparency rules for federal spending

Guidelines call for new Web site and quality metrics

The Office of Management and Budget has outlined new long-range plans to make federal spending data more accessible to the public and to meet the requirements of the Obama administration’s Open Government Directive.

Most notably, the guidelines provide for a new Web site, www.USAspending.gov, which will be a searchable clearinghouse for federal spending information. OMB aims to continuously update the site with technology that allows the public to view and analyze federal spending data. OMB is also requiring that agencies maintain metrics on quality of data, to be gauged based on timeliness, completeness and accuracy.

Additionally, governmental organizations have until Oct. 1 of this year to establish a framework for reporting sub-award and sub-contracting information. Currently, agencies are only required to report prime contracts and awards. The guidance will apply to new grants, contracts and task and delivery orders awarded after Oct. 1, but not those that already exist.

“Full and easy access to information on government spending promotes accountability by allowing detailed tracking and analysis of the deployment of government resources…[and] gives the public confidence that we are properly managing its funds,” said Jeffrey D. Zients, deputy director for management at OMB, in the memo detailing the new rules.

OMB says it is soliciting information from the general public on how to better achieve government transparency, including feedback on current initiatives and ideas and recommendations for better transparency.

At least one government watchdog group questions the novelty of OMB’s April 6 release of the guidelines.

“The OMB announcements on spending transparency and policy changes to reduce barriers to transparency are not monumental,” said Gary D. Bass, director of the nonprofit OMB Watch, in a statement. “The steps to begin disclosing on USAspending.gov information about sub-recipients of federal grants and contracts by Oct. 1 is already mandated by law.”

But Bass did praise at least one measure in the OMB memo. “OMB also announced it will develop of long-range plan on federal spending transparency. We applaud this first step and look forward to assessing the completed plan when it becomes available.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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