by Texas Nate, Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 01:35:52 PM EDT
President Obama has been a strong advocate of open government since he and Tom Coburn passed the Obama-Coburn bill in 2006. Coming into the Presidency he has walked it like he talks it -- writing very aggressive calls for transparency and reporting into the Recovery Act and appointing Federal super sleuth Earl Devaney to head up his Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board.
But now the administration is finding itself between a rock and a hard place on the issue.
The rock is the federal bureaucracy:
The $787 billion stimulus package requires unprecedented levels of transparency -- and some federal managers and auditors are worried those requirements will place unfair scrutiny on their agencies.
Many agencies are concerned that state and local agencies won't provide accurate data. They often won't be able to review that data before it's posted online -- so a state-level mistake could end up reflecting badly on federal agencies, too.
Auditors worry that agencies won't have a chance to provide context for that data -- that citizens will find small mistakes in stimulus spending and turn them into larger problems.
And other managers fear that they'll be inundated by thousands of comments from citizens concerned about stimulus programs.
The hard place is the business community:
U.S. businesses expect that a greater focus on transparency and accountability in government spending of bailout and stimulus money will result in more regulations, according to an industry study released on Monday.
Deloitte, an audit and consulting firm, said it surveyed more than 1,540 business professionals from a range of industries including financial services, energy and telecommunications.
In the survey executives were asked if they think the focus on transparency and accountability will lead to more rules for all industries and if they think it is possible to link greater transparency to spending from the fiscal stimulus.
Eighty percent of those surveyed said they think there will be more regulations but about 58 percent said they didn't think greater transparency could be effectively linked to spending resulting from the fiscal stimulus.
These are fairly minor impediments though compared to the difficultly of actually compiling the data that the administration has promised will be delivered by Recovery.gov. It appears that they're already falling behind the private sector on tracking the stimulus spending:
President Obama held a widely-covered press conference this week touting the 2000th transportation project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And Vice President Biden said, "The Recovery Act is being implemented with speed, transparency and accountability." With this kind of press coverage, one might believe that the government is staying on top of the Recovery spending. However, our research shows that the actual number of transportation projects obligated thus far is closer to 5000, indicating that not only is Recovery Act funding unclear to the taxpaying American public, it isn't even transparent to those in Washington who are doling out this massive amount of spending.