November 16, 2009
By Matthew Jaffe
The Obama administration, under fire for inflating job growth from the $787 billion stimulus plan, slashed over 60,000 jobs from its most recent report on the program because the reporting outlets had submitted "unrealistic data," according to a document obtained by ABC News.
Image: A document from the Office of Management and Budget obtained by ABC News shows that before an Oct. 30 progress report on the government stimulus program the administration asked the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to remove information from 12 stimulus recipients that contained "unrealistic data," including "unrealistic job data." OMB deputy director Rob Nabors, pictured, said that most of the information that stimulus recipients provided to the government was good.
The Office of Management and Budget document shows that before an Oct. 30 progress report on the program the administration asked the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to remove information from 12 stimulus recipients that contained "unrealistic data," including "unrealistic job data." (Read the document here.)
One recipient Talladega County of Alabama claimed that 5,000 jobs had been saved or created from only $42,000 in stimulus funds.
"The administration committed from the start to be upfront with the American people about the impact of the Recovery Act. Overall, the recipients provided good information on the impact of the Recovery Act across the country," Rob Nabors, deputy director at OMB, told ABC News Monday. "The test that we used when examining the data for accuracy was, 'Is that reasonable?' When the answer was no, we acted accordingly."
"For instance," Nabors noted, "there is little chance that a $42,000 grant actually created 5,000 jobs, and we did not want that count to be part of the final jobs report. We are continuing to examine data for inconsistencies or errors, whether small or large. Given the unprecedented nature of this reporting effort, these are cautious, responsible steps to ensure that the information provided to the American people is accurate and reliable."
Some of the other recipients whose data was omitted included Belmont Metropolitan Housing Authority in Ohio that reported 16,120 jobs saved or created after receiving $1.3 million in stimulus funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Shelton State Community College in Alabama reported 14,500 jobs saved or created after receiving $27,000 from the General Accounting Office. And Alkan Builders of Alaska reported 3,000 jobs saved or created after receiving $11 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Lawmaker Calls for OMB Testimony on Stimulus Jobs
All told, the omitted data from the 12 outlets reflected 60,803 jobs saved or created from over $20 million in stimulus funds. If the administration had included the data in its report last month, the total job growth from the stimulus would have exceeded 700,000, rather than the 640,000 ultimately reported.
However, OMB's role in filtering the jobs numbers led a senior Republican lawmaker to call for the agency to come to Capitol Hill to testify on its involvement.
On Thursday the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on how stimulus recipients account for their use of funds. The hearing will feature Earl Devaney, chair of the Recovery Act board, officials from the Department of Education and the Department of Transportation, and a representative from the Government Accountability Office, but no witnesses from OMB.
In light of the OMB document, the panel's ranking Republican called for an agency representative to be added to the witness list for Thursday's hearing.
"The more we learn about the administration's 'jobs created or saved' methodology, the more questions we have regarding its accuracy and validity," Rep. Darrell Issa told ABC News Sunday night. "Now we learn that OMB is playing an active role in trying to filter information. Given this hands-on role that the administration is playing, it would be appropriate to have OMB represented at Thursday's hearing."
Last month the administration claimed that 640,329 jobs had been saved or created because of the $159 billion in stimulus money allocated as of the end of September.
When the numbers were released October 30, the White House acknowledged that they were not exact, while touting the work they had done to make the report as accurate as possible. Ed DeSeve, senior advisor to the President for Recovery Act Implementation, said he had been "scrubbing" the job estimates so much that he now had "dishpan hands and my fingers are worn to the nub."
As ABCNews.com reported last week, Issa has sent a letter to Devaney challenging the stimulus jobs numbers.
Since the latest stimulus report, there have been numerous media reports that the jobs numbers were inflated.
The Associated Press said the report "significantly overstates the number of jobs spared with money from programs serving families and children, mostly the Head Start preschool program."
The Denver Post also cited overstated federal figures with the Colorado Head Start program, noting that the government reported 269 jobs saved or created by the program, but only three were actually saved or created.
The Chicago Tribune noted that the administration said $4.7 million in stimulus money for schools in north Chicago had saved the jobs of 473 teachers, but the school district only employed 290 teachers. The statistics claiming that stimulus money had helped save or create 14,330 school jobs in Illinois were "riddled with anomalies that raise questions about their validity."
The Boston Globe also reported that Massachusetts recipients of stimulus funds claimed that 12,000 jobs had been saved or created, "that number has been inflated by miscounts, erroneous figures, or claiming jobs for work not yet started."
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