The Benefits of Transparency
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) established the Recovery Board to promote transparency in the spending of the $787 billion in stimulus money and to ensure accountability in the way the money was used to fund jobs and stimulate the American economy. The Board promotes transparency through Recovery.gov, portraying in simple language how the Recovery funds are awarded and spent, the progress of projects, and jobs funded. Overall transparency in government spending and programs has a number of benefits:
- The public knows what the government is doing with their tax dollars – for example, Recovery tax benefits are described in a simple chart with detailed narrative descriptions;
- Citizens can interact with government officials to influence decisions in a collaborative manner – descriptions of each award are displayed by the website’s mapping capabilities giving the press and public the information to question Congress, the Administration, and state and local governments regarding the value of these efforts;
- With the information on projects and awards, the public can track the progress on the ground where funds are being spent – the awards in each local community can be identified using a zip code search;
- Information on opportunities is readily available – for example, there are two job search capabilities and links to information on available grants and contracts;
- Compliance and self-correcting behavior —all reports filed by those receiving funds are displayed and those who fail to report are named on Recovery.gov. In evaluating the relatively small number of award recipients who have not reported as mandated by the Act, it is obvious that the public nature of reporting and the open availability of the data do indeed foster compliance and self-correcting behavior.
The Board’s active accountability efforts in association with the transparency of the Recovery program indicate that the level of fraud, waste, and abuse are relatively low to date.