State governments are not required by the federal government to
post information regarding American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
(Recovery Act) spending on their own procurement websites. A POGO review of the procurement websites from all 50 states (plus DC) found that one state—New Hampshire—has
been posting original scanned Recovery Act contracts. This provides
taxpayers with unprecedented access to important details regarding
State procurement websites are an important resource for those looking to track Recovery Act spending. This is especially evident in the case of New Hampshire’s procurement website because the resources available at the federal level on Recovery Act spending are not planning to post actual contracts. The actual contracts are important because they detail the full scope of work an entity has been contracted to perform for the government. Those details will enable interested taxpayers and organizations such as POGO to relate contractor performance with the actual scope of work. Such comparisons play an integral role in the ongoing struggle to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending.
State procurement websites can be a useful tool for taxpayers, but the most comprehensive resource on Recovery Act spending is expected to be Recovery.gov. Beginning October 1, 2009, recipients of Recovery Act funds will start submitting detailed information to the federal government, such as the amount of Recovery Act funds received and the number of jobs created because of those funds. Those submissions will be available for the public to view on Recovery.gov and should serve as the most vital resource to taxpayers. POGO recommends the federal government should follow New Hampshire’s lead and require that recipients of Recovery Act funds submit a scanned copy of their actual contracts along with the other required information so that they can be viewed by the public on Recovery.gov. That action would further aid taxpayers by decreasing the number of resources necessary to view in order to get the whole picture of Recovery Act spending.
POGO’s review has found that in the rare instance actual contracts are posted at the federal level, most are redacted so heavily they serve no use to taxpayers.
This POGO investigation complements Good Jobs First’s July 2009 report, Show us the Stimulus, which evaluated state government Recovery Act websites. A basis for this POGO investigation was Good Jobs First’s 2007 report The State of State Disclosure, which found that “There are perennial scandals about contracts awarded to politically connected bidders rather than to those offering the best deal. To have an informed debate about state procurement practices, the public needs data on contracts that have already been awarded.” Full disclosure of contracts will provide the public with the necessary information to effectively serve as citizen Inspectors General.
-- Marc Vartabedian