States leave stimulus law data unclear

States varied in many aspects of using contracting data, including what type of data they routinely collected on contracts awarded for projects funded by stimulus law money, a report states

Handed money from an administration that wanted to track funds and oversee contractors, state officials may not have been able to keep a close enough eye on those dollars, according to a recent report.

Five states that the Government Accountability Office reviewed varied in many aspects of contracting data, including what type of data they routinely collected on contracts awarded for projects funded by the economic stimulus law, according to a GAO report released July 21.

After its review, GAO could not determine the full extent to which California, Colorado, Florida, New York and Texas used contracts that were awarded without competition, the report states.


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Officials in California, Colorado and Florida said some of their state agencies have awarded noncompetitive contracts under that law. Officials in Texas were unaware of any being awarded. But officials in New York said none of their state agencies had awarded contracts without competition, GAO reported.

In handling that money, the states relied mainly on contracting policies and procedures they had set before receiving the stimulus money. The policies generally require competition. Each state has supplemented its state-level guidance with some additional stimulus law-specific policies and procedures, the report states.

But that’s at the state level. Officials said they don’t routinely have a state-level oversight agency watching the contracts that were awarded at the local level, the report states. None of the states are required to do so. Most stimulus law funds going to local governments, such as counties, cities, towns and other local education agencies, flow through existing federal grant programs, and federal agencies even passed some funds directly to local governments.

“The limitations on available contract data, therefore, precluded us from performing an analysis on noncompetitive Recovery Act contracts awarded in the selected states,” GAO reported.

The state audit organizations are focusing their audit resources on programmatic reviews rather than on the use of noncompetitive stimulus law contracts, GAO reported.

Since the law was enacted, the Obama administration has pressed federal agencies and states to report on how they used stimulus money. The data is on Recovery.gov and FederalReporting.gov Web sites for the public to see the law's effects.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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