Watching Over Your Tax Dollars
In Fiscal Year 2011, the federal government spent $3.6 trillion and most would agree that taxpayers are entitled to know where that money went.
Unfortunately, government financial reporting systems fall short of a fundamental test: Revealing to taxpayers how federal agencies spend their money.
That’s not an issue at the Recovery Board. With the support of Congress and the administration, we’ve made sure that citizens know how their money is spent on Recovery Act contracts, grants and loans issued by federal agencies.
We developed a password-protected website, FederalReporting.gov, to collect spending data from more than 170,000 recipients of Recovery Act funds.
Each quarter, that information is passed along to Recovery.gov, the Recovery Board’s public website. Users can easily find information on contracts, grants and loans in their communities or across the nation.
We watch over the money using the Recovery Operations Center, a state-of-the-art analysis center, to try and make sure that the funds aren’t stolen or wasted.
In December, our job got bigger.
The President’s Government Accountability and Transparency Board, of which I am a member, issued a report containing far-reaching recommendations that would give average citizens easy access to spending data across the government.
The GAT Board, created by the President as a key element in his effort to rid government programs of waste, fraud and abuse, made these recommendations:
- A government-wide framework should be developed to detect fraud, waste and abuse in spending across federal programs. The GAT Board cited the success of the Recovery Operations Center.
- The numerous data collection and display systems throughout government should be integrated, a step that would “reduce or eliminate current system redundancies and achieve significant savings.’’
- A universal award identification system should be implemented for all federal awards. This would help reconcile spending data from multiple sources and improve oversight.
Administration officials would like to see follow-up action on the GAT Board’s recommendations—and so would the Recovery Board.
We are working diligently to develop a framework that will support the GAT Board’s findings.
For one thing, we are conducting pilot programs on fraud prevention tools with personnel from several agencies and the Inspector General community.
These pilots give the agencies and IGs access to the Recovery Operations Center, or ROC. This helps agencies perform their own risk evaluations before awarding federal contracts, grants or loans.
IGs, meanwhile, can use our analytical tools to prevent and detect fraud and waste. The ROC also fields special requests for analytical assistance from other law enforcement agencies that need our expertise.
Almost daily, moreover, we brief many folks across government on the operations of the ROC.
In the end, the way we see it, the analytical center could be used across government to protect taxpayer dollars.
On the issue of developing a single, integrated system for collecting and displaying all government data, we will be meeting with other federal agencies to assess how this might be done and what the costs would be.
Finally, on the issue of a universal award ID, which would permit much better oversight, we are working closely with a non-profit federally funded research organization on the best way to implement such a system. A final report from the organization is now being evaluated.
I will keep you posted on future developments.
– Kathleen S. Tighe, Chair, Recovery Board