Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tracking Stimulus Spending May Not Be as Easy as Promised

Alec MacGillis of the Washington Post writes about stimulus money tracking:
Shortly after the economic stimulus bill was signed, Vice President Biden was talking up the administration's Web site to track the spending,, when he accidentally directed people to

As slip-ups go, this one had an upside: Unlike the government site, the privately run is actually providing detailed information about how the $787 billion in stimulus money is being spent.

To build support for the stimulus package, President Obama vowed unprecedented transparency, a big part of which, he said, would be allowing taxpayers to track money to the street level on Together with a spruced-up, the site would inject the stodgy federal bureaucracy with the same Webby accessibility and Facebook-generation flair that defined the Obama campaign.

But three months after the bill was signed, offers little beyond news releases, general breakdowns of spending, and acronym-laden spreadsheets and timelines. And congressional Democrats, state officials and advocates of open government worry that the White House cannot come close to clearing the high bar it set.
I will give the Administration the benefit of the doubt that they truly intended to be open about where the money is going. But when you are talking about that amount of money, you need a whole team of people tracking it and seeing that it is being spent and reporting back. Good luck.

That much money being spent that quickly (remember this is an crisis we don't want to go to waste), you invite shoddy record keeping, backdoor favors and not quite effective follow-through.

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