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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just Not Too Transparent...

The Washington Independent reports:
Internet junkies and wonks alike may have jumped the gun in looking forward to the new online transparency hyped by House members who vowed to put contracts doled out from the $800 billion stimulus package online.

That promise, included in the initial House bill, was hailed by watchdog groups, who pointed to it as real reform in government contracting. However, in a major concession to government contractors, which opposed having the contracts made public, the final bill requires only a “summary of the contracts” to be posted online; and even the summaries will only be available for contracts worth more than $500,000.
Moreover, The Independent points towards a study released by the government watchdog group OMB Watch that notes another major change in the advertised vs. finalized level of transparency:
[T]he enacted bill adds the word “federal” before “government” in a couple of paragraphs that specify on which contracts data would be reported on the recovery website (e.g. “The website shall provide detailed data on contracts award by the federal government…”). The implication is that data from contracts awarded by state and local governments would not be required to be reported on the website.
When he launched the stimulus-tracking website Recovery.gov last month, President Obama commented, "The size and scale of this plan demand unprecedented efforts to root out waste, inefficiency and unnecessary spending. Recovery.gov will be the online portal for these efforts," to ensure stimulus funds will be spent in a "timely, targeted and transparent manner."

Given the Administration’s insistence on transparency, maybe someone can clearly explain why Congress appears to have changed the rules at the last minute?

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