Biden, GOP announce spending watchdog plans

Vice President Joe Biden on Monday announced the launch of a governmentwide campaign to cut government waste, including the creation of an oversight board modeled on the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which used a website to track federal stimulus money. The head of the new board will be former Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney, who has been heading the recovery board. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., unveiled legislation to create a similar oversight board just hours before Biden's announcement on Monday. Joined at a news conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building by Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, Biden said, "The American people have lost confidence over the years in the ability of government" to spend money with minimal fraud and abuse. "The fundamental rationale for this campaign is to regain that public trust," he said. Biden added that every agency must focus on "transparency and accountability" by publishing spending on websites that would involve the public and create "hundreds of thousands of inspectors general." The White House released details on the structure of the campaign in an executive order titled "Delivering an Efficient, Effective and Accountable Government." Biden said he expected to cooperate with Issa on the new board, as well as with Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Ct., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Biden and Issa met to discuss a centralized spending oversight board in November, Issa said in a statement. The administration's plan appeared similar to Issa's, though less detailed. It's not yet clear whether there will be competing Democratic legislation for the spending oversight board. Information collected by Issa's proposed board would be pooled on a single website modeled after Recovery.gov. The new website would replace Recovery.gov and USAspending.gov, which tracks standard government spending. The information on the site would come from the federal agencies that spend the money and from recipients of federal funds, who would be required to report those receipts in a standardized form. Similar funding requirements are already imposed on companies and groups that received stimulus money. Devaney has credited those mandatory reports with drastically reducing the amount of fraud and abuse in stimulus spending by forcing transparency up front. Both the Issa and Biden plans appear to be based on a proposal Devaney made in a not-yet-public memo he recently sent to Biden. Devaney described the proposal in an interview last week with The Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News. Devaney is slated to testify about that plan before Issa's committee on Tuesday. A Devaney spokesman has said he'll make the Biden memo public in advance of the hearing.
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