June 10, 2011Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to announce Monday a new plan to cut waste across government agencies. The plan is related to a proposal from the government's chief stimulus spending watchdog that all tracking of government spending be modeled on the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board's oversight of the $787 billion stimulus bill and aggregated onto a single website, Recovery Board spokesman Ed Pound said Friday. Pound said the "lessons learned" white paper that Recovery Board Chairman Earl Devaney sent Biden will be released publicly early next week. Biden led the Obama administration's oversight of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act before handing over the reins to White House budget director Jacob Lew, who is also scheduled to be at Monday's announcement. Devaney told the Center for Public Integrity's iwatch news service on Tuesday that a single government reporting system could save taxpayers at least half the estimated $100 million the government currently spends to collect and display spending data across more than two dozen websites. Such a system also would be better at tracking spending and spotting abuse, he said. Devaney is scheduled to testify about his plan at a hearing Tuesday of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform aimed at increasing the transparency of federal spending data. That committee's chairman, Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has been an advocate of increasing government transparency through new technology and a vocal critic of current reporting systems for federal spending. Issa discussed the proposed consolidation of government data and reporting programs in a meeting with Biden in December 2010, Devaney told iwatch. The Recovery Board's oversight process is primarily based on mandatory reporting by stimulus recipients. Devaney has said the process of preventing fraud early on through forced transparency is significantly more effective than trying to root it out later. The board also has worked with government inspectors general to train about 130,000 government employees to spot fraud in the stimulus payment and reporting process. The Recovery Board also relies on citizen reports of potential fraud. As of April 30, the board had received more than 6,600 reports of potential misuse of stimulus funds, according to its website. Of those reports, about 1,400 are currently being investigated and 344 have been closed. There have been 144 convictions following investigations, Devaney told iwatch. Devaney asked the White House in February for authority to probe more deeply into secondary recipients of stimulus funds. Direct recipients of stimulus money are currently required to file reports to the Recovery Board along with first-tier subrecipients, such as contractors on a building project. Lower layers of recipients, however, are exempt from the reporting requirements. The Office of Management and Budget has estimated that recipients representing about 95 percent of stimulus money are subject to reporting requirements, but critics have said those numbers are difficult to prove.
June 10, 2011