November 17, 2009
Columbia Nonpartisan Examiner
Last spring, in response to public outcry about the size of the stimulus package and concerns that it would be difficult to track such a massive program, the Obama administration rolled out a website to facilitate the tracking process. Recovery.gov is a searchable database that Americans can access to track how stimulus money is spent, taking a step toward the transparency President Obama promised during his campaign. $18 million was spent to develop the website.
Photo: President Barack Obama departs the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 14, 2009, en route to New York where he will deliver a speech on the financial recovery.
This week it was discovered that Recovery.gov includes many inaccuracies, most of which are listings of jobs created in Congressional districts that don’t exist. For example, it indicates that in Colorado, 14 jobs were created in district 7 at a cost of $33,195. The striking first thought is to wonder about jobs that pay an average of $2,371 per year, but that point is moot because there is no district 7 in Colorado.
The website also reflects that $10.1 million was spent in Colorado’s district 0, creating 0 jobs.
This erroneous reporting was not isolated to Colorado. District 15 in Arizona is reflected to have 30 jobs created to the tune of $761,420. Unfortunately there is no district 15 in Arizona. Similar situations exist in states across the country, including Maryland, Minnesota, Connecticut, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Iowa and several U.S. Territories.
Ed Pound is the Communications Director for the Recovery Board. "We report what the recipients submit to us," he told ABC News. He said the board receives reporting from the recipients of stimulus funds (including state governments, federal agencies and universities) about what programs are being funded.
"Some recipients clearly don't know what congressional district they live in, so they appear to be just throwing in any number. We expected all along that recipients would make mistakes on their congressional districts, on jobs numbers, on award amounts, and so on. Human beings make mistakes," Pound said.
It seems improbable that so many states would make the error of providing non-existent district numbers. This is especially true because the 2010 Census currently underway is specifically related to Congressional districts.
In May of 2009, the Washington Post criticized Recovery.gov, stating, “three months after the bill was signed, Recovery.gov offers little beyond news releases, general breakdowns of spending, and acronym-laden spreadsheets and timelines." The same article also stated, "Unlike the government site, the privately run Recovery.org is actually providing detailed information about how the $787 billion in stimulus money is being spent.”
Do we really want the federal government managing our health care system, when a private company so outperforms them in something as simple as tracking job creation?