Shaming the Scofflaws
We like to call it the “Wall of Shame.’’
That’s the nickname we’ve given to the list of recipients who fail to submit quarterly spending reports as required by the Recovery Act. Each quarter, after spending reports are filed, the Office of Management and Budget provides the Recovery Board with the names of recipients who failed to comply with the law. Federal agencies that distribute funds for contracts, grants and loans certify the accuracy of these so-called non-compliers.
Oversight of spending is an important function of the Recovery Board. If recipients don’t file reports detailing how they spent their Recovery funds and how many jobs were funded, then we can’t report to the American public on how those tax dollars were used.
First, a little history would help. Early on in the Recovery program, non-compliance was a bigger problem. In our first reporting period ending in September 2009, recipients failed to submit 4,359 reports.
What to do? The Board decided that if recipients would thumb their noses, then it made sense to point the finger at them. We established a quarterly posting of non-compliers on Recovery.gov.
The Board, of course, was not the only federal agency concerned with the non-compliance issue. In April 2010, the President turned up the heat on non-compliant recipients, issuing a get-tough directive to agencies that distribute Recovery funds. In a nutshell, the agencies were directed “wherever authorized and appropriate’’ to terminate awards, reclaim funds, and initiate suspension and debarment proceedings against violators.
The pressure seems to have worked. In the quarter ending December 31, recipients filed 171,304 reports with the Recovery Board. Only 418 reports were not submitted and most were one-time offenders, according to the latest compliance figures. Agencies continue pressing recipients to file their reports, in some cases withholding future payments.
Still, the excuses for non-compliance come fast and furious. One federal agency said that a company with $4 million in contracts didn’t file because its officials were “out of the office.” Other recipients blamed layoffs, firings, sickness and retirements for their failures. Many recipients, contacted by the awarding agencies, cited technical and administrative issues. In some cases, however, the answer was really quite simple: The recipients acknowledged missing the reporting deadline.
-- Michael Wood, Executive Director, Recovery Board