Telling Citizens What Exactly Government Does Would Cost $100 Million

Duncan Andison/

Proposed legislation to meticulously track every federal program and contract would cost $100 million over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Taxpayers Right to Know Act, sponsored by Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., would require federal agencies to identify and describe each program they administer, the costs to administer them, the number of program beneficiaries and the number of both federal and contract staff involved for each service. The bill would require each agency to post all of this information on its website.

Some provisions of the legislation are already law as part of recent amendments to the Government Performance and Results Act, CBO found, though the requirement to report the total administrative costs and spending on contract services would involve new information.  CBO made its estimate based on the precedent set by the GPRA, as well as the reporting requirements included in the 2009 stimulus package.

While the bill -- which cleared the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in July and is awaiting a vote on the full House floor -- contains no direct offset for the $100 million in spending it would create, proponents expect it to identify duplicative federal programs, thereby leading to billions of dollars in savings.

“The Taxpayers Right to Know Act provides the American people with a high-powered magnifying glass to evaluate administrative costs and expenses, which ultimately siphon away funds from the very people they are designed to serve,” Lankford said in a statement when introducing the bill. “Access to this vital information will allow us to make each federal program more effective and efficient by streamlining duplicative, outdated and unnecessary programs while simultaneously improving services and outcomes.”

Similar legislation Lankford introduced in the last Congress also passed the oversight committee, but was never taken up by the full House. 

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