President Obama held a widely-covered press conference this week touting the 2000th transportation project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And Vice President Biden said, "The Recovery Act is being implemented with speed, transparency and accountability." With this kind of press coverage, one might believe that the government is staying on top of the Recovery spending. However, our research shows that the actual number of transportation projects obligated thus far is closer to 5000, indicating that not only is Recovery Act funding unclear to the taxpaying American public, it isn't even transparent to those in Washington who are doling out this massive amount of spending.
Here is what the recovery project numbers really look like:
Note: The bulk of projects to-date are transportation because of the "use it or lose it" provisions in the legislation.
President Obama has vowed to track every dime of the stimulus funds and promised that the administration's new website, Recovery.gov, will detail everything taxpayers wanted to know about the stimulus expenditures. Thus far Recovery.gov is not up to the task and, according to its Chief Architect Kshemendra Paul, the effort is going slower than expected as they are "focused on the basic reporting requirements." Moreover, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board received $84 million to develop and maintain the site but according to spokeswoman Nancy DiPaolo they won't have usable data on the site until October.
October? The legislation was rushed through Congress and signed into law by President Obama on February 17th with assurances that spending would be transparent and accountable. Unless something changes immediately, by the time the government is able to perfect its data gathering the stimulus money will have been spent and untold amounts will have been lost to fraud and waste during this critical nine month period - $55 billion, according to Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board - particularly at the State and Local level where the Administration has no visibility.