The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) applauds the accountability provisions of the stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009, a summary of which was released by the House Committee on Appropriations.
POGO is pleased that, in the expressed spirit of openness of the new Congress and the new administration, the very first provisions listed in the bill concern "unprecedented" and "historic" measures to assure transparency and oversight so that the taxpayer can easily see where the funds are going and why.
As described by the Committee, these provisions include:
- Distribution of funds through existing formulas to programs with proven track records and accountability measures already in place.
- Postings on a special new website indicating how funds are spent, along with announcements of contract and grant announcements and awards.
- Public notifications of funding, including full descriptions of the investment, its purpose, the amount of funds, and why it should be part of this program. Governors, mayors, or other public officials will issue statements that will be posted on the website that certifies they have thoroughly vetted the investment.
- Creation of a Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board, whose seven members will include Inspectors General and Deputy Cabinet secretaries.
- Additional funding for Inspectors General and the GAO to cover the costs of scrutinizing the program.
- Protection of both federal and state whistleblowers.
- Absence of any earmarks.
POGO is especially gratified the bill specifically provides protection for federal and state whistleblowers who report fraud and abuse.
"It is terrific that the Congress recognizes the essential role whistleblowers and Inspectors General will play in exposing waste, fraud and abuse in this monumental effort," said Danielle Brian, Executive Director, POGO.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill will inevitably go through modifications as it wends its way through the legislative process to become law. Much remains to be more fully developed and reviewed. But as long as these strong accountability provisions remain first and foremost in the legislation, POGO believes the American taxpayer is on the way to getting the openness and accountability he and she deserve.