Recovery Act Raised Accountability, GAO Says

A sign indicating Recovery Act work was put up in Waukegan, Ill. in 2009. A sign indicating Recovery Act work was put up in Waukegan, Ill. in 2009. Jim Prisching/AP file photo

The 28 agencies that distributed stimulus grants under the 2009 Recovery Act have learned largely positive lessons in best practices for accountability and transparency, the Government Accountability Office reported.

As part of an examination of website tracking of how dollars were spent in 16 states to create jobs and boost economic growth, auditors found that federal agencies working with states “looked beyond their usual way of doing business and adjusted their usual practices to help ensure the accountability and transparency of Recovery Act funds.

“The oversight community adopted a faster and more flexible approach to how they conducted and reported on their audits and reviews so that their findings could inform programs of needed corrections before all Recovery funds were expended,” the GAO report released Friday said.

The report for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee comes after the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board’s mission was extended until September 2015 so it could track the spending on relief for victims of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

As the government doled out what became $812 billion in recovery money, agencies leveraged technology by using Web-based reporting and “advanced data analytics to reduce fraud and to create easily accessible Internet resources that greatly improved the public’s access to information on how the funds were spent, GAO said.

Management approaches contributing to the successes, the congressional watchdog determined, include:

  • Strong support from top leaders.
  • Centrally situated collaborative governance structures.
  • Use of networks and agreements to share information and work toward common goals.
  • Adjustments and innovations in traditional oversight, “such as the increased use of upfront risk assessments, the gathering of ‘real time’ information, earlier communication of audit findings and the use of advanced data analytics.”

Keys to effective website design for tracking spending included establishing a clear purpose, using social networking tools to garner interest, tailoring the website to meet audience needs and obtaining stakeholder input during design, the auditors said.

The remaining challenge, GAO said, is for agencies to apply the same analytics to go beyond verifying any fraudulent use of funds to measuring the outcomes from grant spending governmentwide.

Working with the Office of Management and Budget and the Recovery Board, auditors for this study examined spending by the departments of Education, Energy, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, focusing on recipients in Georgia, Massachusetts, New York and Colorado.

Federal managers who read the report in draft generally agreed with its conclusions.  

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.