Just weeks after the government Web site designed to track stimulus spending was shown to be riddled with errors, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the government to build another such site, to track $700 billion in bailout funds for the financial sector.
The bill (H.R. 1242), sponsored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY), requires the Treasury Department to create a real-time, Web-accessible database tracking Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds.
The House passed the bill unanimously in early December, just weeks after Recovery.gov was ridiculed for claiming some of the $787 billion in stimulus funds were spent in scores of congressional districts that don’t exist.
Good Idea—If It Works
Rick Bornemann, president of the Ethan Allen Institute in Concord, Vermont, says a TARP-tracking Web site is a good idea—as long as the government can pull it off.
“The Obama administration has been saying it has an accurate account of all this new federal spending, and it certainly ought to,” Bornemann said. “I think all of it should have been posted online for citizens to examine. But they really need to sharpen things up.”
Bobby A. Derrick, field representative of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Association of Government Accountants and former president of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, agrees the project is worth attempting. But he, too, has doubts based on the federal government’s track record.
“Anything we can do to provide transparency and accountability to the American taxpayers is a positive step in the right direction,” Derrick said. “Accounting and reporting for how the stimulus spending is being used is very important, but its implementation has not gone very well.”
Derrick notes his association provides detailed financial reporting and the key is to make it “simple, clear and concise.”
“We are advocates for a Citizens Centric Report, which is a four-page report that provides information at a level all of us can understand,” he said. “Volunteers from around the country developed a template for such a Citizens Centric Report. It’s very simple, and at the same time provides a pretty good understanding from a broad level how their tax dollars are being spent.”
Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas.