OMB issues stimulus guidance to agencies

Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag issued initial guidance to agencies on Wednesday for administering stimulus funds, providing information and requirements on financial reporting, risk management and contracting.

The 62-page memorandum was sent to agency and department heads, who were directed to distribute the guidance to personnel involved in economic recovery-related activity. Orszag said the policies must take effect immediately to carry out the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The memo focused in particular on requiring agencies to regularly submit spending and performance data to recovery.gov, the online clearinghouse that provides information on how the stimulus funds are spent.

"To deliver a Web site that allows citizens to hold the government accountable for every dollar spent, the law and guidance require federal agencies to implement mechanisms to accurately track, monitor and report on taxpayer funds," Orszag said.

On March 3, agencies must begin submitting weekly reports that include a breakdown of stimulus funding and a summary of major actions taken and future activities. By May 1, agencies must provide their individual recovery plans that outline broad recovery goals and coordinating efforts. On May 8, they must start submitting monthly financial reports that detail obligations, expenditures and other financial data.

For stimulus-related contracts, agencies will be required to post pre-solicitation and award notices for acquisitions under task and delivery order contracts on FedBizOpps, a requirement that goes beyond those in the Federal Acquisition Regulation. These notices, as well as award reporting in the Federal Procurement Data System, must be formatted specially to distinguish them as stimulus-related actions, the memo instructed.

For each contract or order more than $500,000, agencies must provide a summary of the contract or order, including a description of the required products and services, which then will be made public and linked to recovery.gov.

Orszag strongly urged agencies to used fixed-price contracts whenever possible and appropriate.

"Fixed-price contracts … provide maximum incentive for the contractor to control costs and perform effectively and impose a minimum burden upon the contracting parties," Orszag wrote. "These contracts expose the government to the least risk."

Orszag said OMB will issue more detailed guidance in the next month or two.

Agencies have been preparing to handle the billions of dollars they will receive from the economic recovery package. Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the National Park Service, which will receive about $750 million in stimulus funds, said the agency is "thrilled" to be able to put the money to use on construction and maintenance projects.

Olson said the agency closely followed the progress of the stimulus legislation, and he is confident NPS has the capacity to manage the infusion of money.

"This is a big boost for us," Olson said. "It will make us prove the capacity of our system; we do imagine there will have to be some temporary hires in the area of contracting, but far and away most of the money will go to individual companies that build roads, build water treatment plants and to the people who work for them."

The Small Business Administration also is mobilizing to manage the $730 million in stimulus funds for its lending and investment programs.

"There's a lot to digest in the legislation, and SBA has established teams to tackle a wide variety of policy decisions, system modifications, regulatory changes, legal requirements, and new program launches authorized by the president and Congress," said SBA acting Administrator Darryl K. Hairston in a statement on Wednesday.

A General Services Administration spokesman said the agency is "thrilled by this unique opportunity to be part of the solution to our nation's economic crisis" and is working on appointing a senior-level official to coordinate stimulus efforts.

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