Recovery Act contracting data set for release

The public this week will get its most in-depth look to date at the contracts federal agencies have signed using billions in Recovery Act funding.

On Oct. 15, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board will post on data from companies and other entities that received direct stimulus contracts from federal agencies. Grants, state-issued contracts, loans and other forms of assistance will be available for viewing on Oct. 30.

"In this first reporting period, you will find a lot of data essential to your understanding of Recovery spending," Board Chairman Earl Devaney wrote in a Tuesday column on "You will see, firsthand, what your state and local governments are doing with Recovery money, and which contractors are benefitting from this program."

According to data already available on the Federal Procurement Data System Next-Generation Web site, agencies have obligated more than $16 billion in Recovery Act contracts. The government's primary public contracting database,, which is updated less frequently than FPDS NG, lists the contract total at $6.2 billion. It is unclear which figure better represents the numbers that will be available on later this week.

Regardless, "This is really only one small slice of the data," said Gary Bass, executive director of the nonprofit OMB Watch, during a conference call on Tuesday. Grants and loans represent a significantly larger percentage of spending.

Other major data sets, such as tax breaks and entitlement spending, account for about two-thirds of all Recovery Act spending. The identities of tax break and entitlement spending recipients, however, will not be made public.

Starting Thursday, visitors to will be able to view the identity of the contract recipient, place of performance, agency that made the award, and date and amount of the award, Board spokesman Ed Pound said. Certain large companies also must report the names and compensation of their five highest-paid employees. The public will be able to download the data to examine it further, Pound said.

The public, however, will not be able to filter the data by contract type -- fixed-price, cost-plus or time-and-materials -- or to separate small and large business contracts.

The Recovery Act requires all recipients of stimulus funds to report on their spending between Oct. 1 and Oct. 10 through, the central data collection system that will feed information into

On Friday, the board announced it had provided a 10-day grace period for late filers to submit their required quarterly report. These entities must explain their reasons for delayed reporting, and they will be identified on "as late filers." Pound estimated "tens of thousands" of entities had registered on

The board extended the deadline to accommodate states that are centralizing their recipient spending, Pound said. In these instances, companies, cities and municipalities that are receiving stimulus funds will submit all the required data to their state, which will then send it to At least one-third of the states, including California, have chosen to submit data in this method.

Recipients of Recovery funds can review and make necessary changes to the data from Oct. 11 through Oct. 29. Agencies can point out errors or omissions but only recipients can change their reports. The board will track revisions and make that information available shortly after Nov. 1.

But Devaney noted that even with many eyes reviewing the data, the spending reports will not be perfect.

"Indeed, there will be errors and omissions in some reports, and still other recipients may not even bother to submit information," he said. "Given our focus on accountability and transparency, we are urging federal agencies to work closely with recipients to correct any problems in their reports. … Over time, with so much public scrutiny of the data, we expect improved reporting; the number of recipients will grow and more information will be displayed on"

Watchdogs expressed concern about the quality and comprehensiveness of the recipient data. The law requires prime recipients and first-tier subrecipients to report to Subrecipients that issue funds directly to a vendor also must report spending. Subsequent pass-throughs to a second subrecipient -- for example a town or municipality -- would be exempt from the requirements.

"Once that money changes hands more than two times, we don't know what happens to it," said Craig Jennings, senior federal fiscal policy analyst with OMB Watch, which is a member of the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery.

Author and construction industry expert Barry LePatner said companies that bid exceedingly low on stimulus contracts will compensate by attempting to run up the allowable costs and price of their projects. If they are not successful then projects might not be completed or the state or federal government will end up intervening.

"They have set up a construct for almost assured failure," he said. "I expect a lot of roads and bridges to nowhere."

LePatner said without an itemized breakdown of how companies are spending Recovery funds, taxpayers will not get a full picture of how projects are progressing. This type of detailed data is not required from recipients.

"I don't think the numbers will disclose much substance," LePatner said.

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

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

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


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