Administration to release more stimulus reporting guidelines Friday

OMB Deputy Director Robert Nabors II says requirements enhance transparency. OMB Deputy Director Robert Nabors II says requirements enhance transparency. Melissa Golden/Landov
The Obama administration on Friday will release detailed guidance requiring federal agencies to track Recovery Act contracts and grants at the prime- and sub-recipient levels, a top Office of Management and Budget official told senators on Thursday.

The new directions will clarify that agencies must collect information on subcontracts awarded from the prime contractor and sub-awards from primary grant recipients, OMB Deputy Director Robert Nabors II told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"The administration believes this level of reporting strikes the appropriate balance between transparency for Recovery Act spending and the burden that reporting imposes on recipients," Nabors told the panel.

Critics had argued that the language in OMB's initial stimulus spending directions, released on Feb. 18, essentially allowed local contractors and subcontractors on the city level or below to avoid public disclosure of grants and contracts.

In addition to data collection, Friday's guidance will cover program planning and oversight, Nabors said.

Despite more tracking and monitoring requirements, committee members expressed concern that a significant percentage of Recovery Act funds will be wasted or abused.

"If Americans start hearing stories about how their money is being wasted on pet projects or funneled to favorite contractors or flat out lost to fraud or theft, faith in government at all levels and support for the overall program will erode -- no matter that other parts of the program are successful," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the committee.

Earl Devaney, who is leading oversight of stimulus spending as chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, encouraged senators to keep their expectations realistic.

"I am concerned there may be a naïve impression that, given the amount of transparency and accountability called for by this act, little to no fraud or waste will occur," Devaney told lawmakers. "I am afraid that my 38 years of federal enforcement experience informs me that some level of waste or fraud is, regrettably, inevitable. Obviously, the challenge for those of us charged with oversight will be to significantly minimize any such loss."

Devaney said data has shown that about 7 percent of all government funds are lost to fraud and abuse. If that holds up for the $787 billion Recovery Act, more than $55 billion would be wasted.

"We just can't allow that to happen," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the committee's ranking member. "That's just an unacceptable percentage."

Strict oversight of stimulus spending already has begun, Devaney said. Nine contracts identified in news reports last month as noncompetitive or marked by administrative errors have been referred to agency inspectors general for review, he said. Government Executive published a story on March 18 examining some of the early stimulus contracts discussed during the hearing.

During its first meeting last Friday, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board established a Recovery Funds Working Group to coordinate interagency efforts on preventing fraud, waste and abuse before it occurs. The board also plans to improve recovery.gov, the government's official stimulus-tracking Web site, Devaney said.

In the nearly seven weeks since President Obama signed the stimulus bill into law, at least $51 billion in Recovery Act grants, contracts and loans have been obligated by 15 federal agencies, Nabors said.

For example, the Transportation Department has obligated nearly $4 billion for improvements to highways, transit systems and railroads while the Housing and Urban Development Department has spent more than $4 billion for programs to improve public housing and rental assistance.

Nearly 500 Recovery Act contracting opportunities, requests for information and pre-solicitation notices have been posted on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

Significant funding also is reaching states in the forms of grants, Nabors said. Agencies have announced nearly $151 billion in formula and block grants for states and another $8.6 billion Medicaid grant awards. Thus far, 67 Recovery Act grant opportunities have been posted on grants.gov, up from 10 last month.

To help agencies manage the billions in new spending, OMB is reviewing the possibility of establishing a short-term governmentwide contingency contracting corps and is encouraging agencies to use direct hire authority or undertake coordinated interagency recruitment efforts.

The administration also is reviewing a bill Collins introduced in March that would authorize agencies to reemploy retired federal employees on a limited basis without offsetting their annuity from salary.

"The administration generally agrees that employing retirees could be a promising means of building capacity within agencies for Recovery Act implementation," Nabors said. Devaney said he also supports the bill.

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.