Using the Recovery.gov website to reveal how the $787 billion federal stimulus package gets spent may turn out to be tougher than expected, according to a recent article in Federal Computer Week.
The article points to a statement from Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, voicing his worries about the data available for the site: “I am concerned about data quality. The federal government’s data systems have never been fully successful at producing timely and reliable data.”
Edolphus Towns, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (where Devaney was speaking, and which currently operates the site), added that Recovery.gov “is not currently a usable database.”
A visit to Recovery.gov shows that Towns’ statement is pretty much indisputable. The site appears barely changed since it went up a month ago (on Feb. 17, the day the stimulus bill was signed into law). There are a few new charts, as well as a flood of press releases, but the promised searchable data on where exactly federal agencies are distributing the money is nowhere to be seen. It’s still early in the project, and presenting all this information in a way that’s both comprehensive and comprehensible to the average web user is certainly a challenge, but still, the early results don’t inspire much hope. Federal agencies supposedly started reporting on the use of funds on March 3.
Let’s hope we see some changes after the recovery board meets next week. There’s certainly public interest in this site; Recovery.gov receives 4,000 visits every second.