In a memorandum OMB Director Peter R. Orszag signed on Friday, the Obama administration announced it has eliminated monthly reporting requirements "for the foreseeable future…given the continued demand for timely reporting." The now-permanent weekly reports will include total obligations and outlays and a short bulleted list of major actions taken to date and major planned actions.
Orszag left open the possibility of future modifications.
"The reporting frequency and detail may change slightly over time, reflecting the information needs of the administration and the public," he wrote. "Agencies should begin exploring the accounting and process changes required to update obligations and gross outlays more frequently than a weekly report."
A new template for weekly reports will be available by close of business Tuesday, according to the memo, and should be used for the report due the week of April 13.
In addition to detailing spending in the weekly snapshots, agencies must now submit funding notification reports whenever they give money to entities outside the federal government, such as states or contractors. These reports will announce spending through grants, contracts, loans, cooperative agreements and a host of other avenues.
OMB Deputy Director Robert Nabors II told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week that the updated guidance will allow OMB to monitor agency spending on a nearly constant basis.
"We're not going to wait," Nabors said. "We're going to ask them to report the spending decisions as they occur in order to provide a better real-time sense of what projects are being funded, where they are being funded and how much funding they are actually receiving."
The April 3 memo also outlines the principles that agencies are to uphold while spending the $787 billion in recovery money. Among them, the administration strongly encouraged agencies to focus on small business participation.
"Because support of small businesses furthers the economic growth and job creation purposes of the Recovery Act, agencies should support projects that provide maximum practicable opportunities for small businesses," the memo stated.
OMB urged agencies to take advantage of small business contracting programs and to coordinate with their offices of small disadvantaged business and the Small Business Administration to identify qualified and capable firms at the national and local level to respond to solicitations.
The memo acknowledged that taking advantage of existing small business contracting programs might involve limiting competition on stimulus programs and warned that agencies are to follow existing rules on reporting noncompetitive awards to ensure full transparency.