Uniform contract ID system for stimulus funds will increase transparency, accountability

Tuesday - 10/12/2010, 1:13pm EDT

Earl Devaney, Chairman, Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board

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Each of the 28 agencies that received Recovery Act stimulus funds has its own method of identifying award recipients. A uniform government-wide award ID system would increase transparency and accountability of federal funds, according to a report by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.

"I have no doubt the agencies will dig their heels in," said Earl Devaney, chairman of RATB, in an interview with the DorobekINSIDER.

"So we're going to have to do a lot of cajoling and prodding and see if we can get Congress behind it," Devaney said.

Of the $787 billion in stimulus funds provided by the Recovery Act, $275 billion were distributed in the form of contracts, grants and loans.

The American public expects the government to be able to match what agencies say they are giving out in stimulus funds and what recipients are spending, Devaney said.

"Without a single alpha-numerical system we're advocating, there's always a certain number of mismatches," he said.

Devaney estimated there are between 4,000 and 5,000 mismatches per quarters, and each of those must be hand-searched.

"That is extraordinarily tedious and burdensome on manpower. It never gets done exactly and we always end up with a bunch that don't match up. And that's not transparency," Devaney said.

By streamlining the award ID system, agencies can also better track accountability, specifically with the Recovery Act website.

"Transparency actually drives accountability," Devaney said. "The fact we have so many eyeballs on this money, so many people that get up every morning and look at their neighborhood zip codes or reporters looking for stories ... ..makes crooks steer away from this money."

Although the Recovery Board terminates Oct. 1, 2013, the issue of award ID persists, the RATB report said.

"This problem also impacts USASpending.gov, Data.gov, and other means of displaying information on federally awarded funds," according to the report.