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
Recipient: Executive Office of the Virgin Islands
Award Amount: $4,782,469
The recipient reported that these Recovery funds would be used to:
- Repave over 2 miles of asphalt roadway;
- Replace culverts and pipes along the roadway to prevent flooding;
- Install pedestrian signage and new road signs;
- And paint new yellow and white pavement striping.
Project Status: More than 50% complete
To see how funds were distributed between the project’s prime and sub recipients and to learn more about the project, check out the Award Summary or enter your zip code to find Recovery projects near you.
Last week, Recovery.gov was honored at the annual GOVTek Awards ceremony with the award for Government Mobile App of the Year.
The other nominees:
- IRS2GO App (IRS)
- MeAnderthal App (Smithsonian)
- Most Wanted App (FBI)
- MyTSA App (Transportation Security Administration)
- White House App (White House)
Sponsored by the Government Technology Research Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and success of the government IT community, the annual GOVTek Awards celebrate “government and industry IT leaders whose vision, innovation and remarkable accomplishments…have improved the way government delivers services, interacts with citizens, shares information, and protects its national assets,” GTRA’s website says.
The 2012 awards, announced February 2, honored achievements in 2011.
The Recovery.gov Mobile App allows you to see on your iPhone how Recovery funds are being spent in the nation or in your city or state.
Here’s a stat you’ll probably not enjoy reading:
In the past fiscal year, the federal government estimates that it has made $115 billion in improper payments.
That’s billions, not millions.
First, to be clear: Not all improper payments represent fraud. Many result from government overpayments or other errors, according to a government website, www.paymentaccuracy.gov.
The high-error programs include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — vital support systems for millions of Americans.
Here at the Recovery Board, we have technology in our Recovery Operations Center that might be of service to other agencies seeking to prevent improper payments.
The ROC, as it is known, can be used for analysis at all stages of a contract award: Pre-award, at-award, post-award, and pre-payment.
Right now, we are using the ROC to identify irregularities or other problems in Recovery Act awards.
But the Board stands ready to assist other federal agencies in overseeing all of their spending. The Board recently began discussions with the Treasury Department, which is developing similar technology for identifying payments that should not be made.
We are also conducting pilot projects with several agencies and Inspectors General, permitting them to do risk assessments and analysis on Recovery awards.
Down the road, it’s possible we could play a major role across government if the proposed DATA Act is enacted by Congress.
The DATA Act would create a new agency known as the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board. The FAST Board would absorb the Recovery Board’s functions and be given the responsibility to collect and display all government spending data for federal contracts, grants and loans.
I’ll be discussing improper payments, the DATA Act and other subjects when I testify on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, February 7, before the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on government organization, efficiency and financial management.
– Michael Wood, Executive Director, Recovery Board
Time to update the numbers:
On Monday, Recovery.gov posted the most recent quarterly spending data submitted by recipients of Recovery Act contracts, grants and loans.
For the quarter ending December 31, the Recovery Board received 168,265 reports from recipients who had submitted prior quarterly reports. Additionally, we received 2,928 reports for new awards.
What’s more, recipients reported funding a total of 213,094 jobs in the quarter, the lowest number listed since recipients began submitting Recovery spending data in October 2009.
As I explained in my post of January 27, the reasons for the lower job numbers probably relate to the winter season, traditionally a slower period for construction projects, and the completion of more than half of the Recovery awards.
Most of the jobs funded in the past quarter — 172,242 — came from grants issued by various federal agencies. Contract awards funded 30,696 jobs, and the loan program, 10,156.
Awards from the Department of Energy funded more than 40,000 jobs in the quarter. According to the recipient reports, the Department of Education was next in line, funding nearly 37,000 jobs. The most jobs were funded in California (24,035); Texas (12,337); and New York (10,645).
Over the life of the program, established in February 2009, federal agencies have awarded $276.4 billion in contracts, grants and loans. Recipients reported receiving $201.2 billion during that period.
You can get even more information on spending data by visiting Recovery.gov and clicking on “Where Is The Money Going?” at the top of any page.
– Michael Wood, Executive Director, Recovery Board
Inspector General Report
From: Department of Interior
Date: January 10, 2012
Re: Inspector General follows up on management of funding to Indian schools
Background: Interior Department officials recently checked to see if five recommendations that the agency’s Inspector General made in April 2010 had been implemented. The recommendations involved the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) management of Recovery funded programs for improving/repairing American Indian schools. BIA should:
- Obtain refunds of any advance payments to programs that later fail to adhere to specified terms.
- Ensure building repairs and improvements are funded enough to be fully completed and functional.
- Clarify the roles and responsibilities of those in charge of accountability and transparency of Recovery funds.
- Direct all tribes and contractors to post information about whistleblower protection on the project site.
- Consider using a secure, web-based project management system.
Findings: BIA had implemented all but the last recommendation, which BIA said would not be compatible with its firewall system; Interior officials concurred.
Results of a new study made possible by a Recovery Act grant may lead to longer-lasting hip implants.
Scientists had previously believed that naturally occurring proteins in the human body formed a lubricating layer on metal-on-metal hip implants. But a study conducted by an interdisciplinary team of physicians and engineers from the United States and Germany found that, in fact, the layer is composed of graphite carbon, and it works similarly to how a lubricant in a combustion engine does.
It’s still not clear what produces the graphite carbon in the body. But doctors and engineers working at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany are confident that the results of the study, funded by a $670,000 Recovery grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), may lead to longer-lasting hip implants.
“This finding opens new avenues of investigation to help scientists understand how joint implants function, and to develop strategies to make them function better,” said NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz.
Typically, hip implants last 10 years or so. Younger patients tend to need to undergo a second implant surgery when the first wears out so more durable implants would reduce the need for second surgeries.
The following post was written by Michael Wood, the Executive Director of the Recovery Board
Some argue that the federal government seldom does anything correctly.
I beg to differ.
On Monday, January 30, for the 10th consecutive reporting period, the Recovery Board will meet its legal requirement for posting spending data on Recovery.gov from recipients of Recovery Act funds. The data, contained in recipient reports, will cover the quarter ending December 31.
The Recovery Act requires recipients to report data each quarter. The process requires agencies to review the quality of recipient submissions, and then the Recovery Board publishes the data on Recovery.gov. The data is posted on the 30th day following the end of the quarterly reporting period — and I am proud to say we have always met that deadline, even when there were major obstacles in the early days of the program.
Although the exact numbers will be updated for posting on Monday, I can tell you now that we collected more than 170,000 quarterly reports from prime recipients and sub-recipients of Recovery awards. The job numbers will be lower than previous quarters, probably the result of the winter months and the slowdown in construction and the completion of more than half the Recovery awards.
The numbers indicate that most of the contracts, grants and loans, valued at $275 billion, have been awarded to recipients, although not all of the money has been spent.
The following post was written by Kathleen S. Tighe, the Chair of the Recovery Board and the Inspector General for the Department of Education
Challenges keep you on your toes. In two decades in government, I’ve had plenty of them, serving in law enforcement-related positions at the Department of Justice, the General Services Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education.
Last month, President Obama handed me a new—and exciting—challenge: He selected me to serve as Chair of the Recovery Board, the independent agency that oversees the $840 billion economic stimulus program approved by Congress nearly three years ago. It’s a big job, something I know from personal experience as a member of the Recovery Board since April 2010.
The Recovery Act requires the Board to post detailed spending information on Recovery.gov and to provide oversight so that the funds aren’t wasted or stolen. In a nutshell, that means we need to be transparent and accountable to taxpayers.
I can assure you of my long commitment to government openness and accountability. I work for the taxpayers—not the other way around—and I wake up every morning feeling that I can make a difference. I felt that way the first day I walked into the Department of Justice in 1988 to begin serving as a trial attorney in the Fraud Section of the Commercial Litigation Branch. And I did make a difference, settling multi-million dollar cases that benefitted taxpayers.
My work as the Education IG should also give you a good idea of the way I think. From the time I first took that job 22 months ago, I have made it clear that no one—no individual, no company—is above scrutiny. Under my watch, the IG’s office has saved taxpayers millions of dollars by pursuing settlements and other actions against those who sought to defraud taxpayers.
The Recovery Board has a different oversight function. It does not conduct investigations. However, our analysts use sophisticated IT tools, housed in a facility known as the Recovery Operations Center, to pinpoint irregularities in Recovery Act contracts, grants and loans issued by federal agencies. The findings are sent to the IGs who oversee the 28 agencies that issue awards and serve as the basis for audits and investigations.
In its short history, the Board has been hailed for its commitment to accountability and transparency. Rest assured that those good government practices will be continued during my time as Chair.
On January 17, a newly built Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital began taking patients from the 9,300 Native Americans residing in the counties of Dewey, Haakon, Meade, Potter, Sully, and Ziebach in South Dakota.
The Cheyenne River Health Center, located in the north-central part of the state, was constructed using $84.5 million in Recovery funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The 138,000-square-foot facility replaces the former Eagle Butte IHS Hospital, which had become too small to serve the needs of the community.
IHS describes the new hospital as “a modern, technologically advanced facility with enough space and staff to provide an expanded level of health care services specifically designed to meet the needs of the Cheyenne River population.”
The Recovery Act provided a total $500 million through HHS/IHS for:
- Construction of priority health care facilities
- Maintenance and improvement of buildings
- Undertaking water and wastewater sanitation projects
- Purchase of critical medical equipment and health information technology