Three Washington-based nonprofit organizations that have been tracking the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) say initial reporting data on the federal Web site Recovery.gov is deeply flawed. The groups, OMB Watch, Good Jobs First and the Economic Policy Institute, want the Obama administration to overhaul its jobs data system before releasing its first large set of data on Oct. 30.
Local and state governments, along with other recipients of ARRA funds, began reporting their use of the money on Oct. 10. The three groups say the quality of the initial data released last week was poor and awkward in its presentation on the Web site, and they are seeking to meet with officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (Recovery Board) to discuss the problems they found. "Both the quality of the data and its awkward presentation preclude meaningful analysis by analysts, taxpayers or the news media," said OMB Watch Executive Director Gary Bass. "The data must improve if the Recovery Act is to meet President Obama's pledge of true transparency."
In particular, the groups say, reporting inconsistencies preclude a comparison ofacross contractors. Further, job totals likely will be too low and not comparable across states. Estimates of the "cost" of jobs — either in aggregate or for individual contractors — will be inaccurate and misleading as well. The three groups will urge federal officials to improve systems to catch obvious data errors, revise the way downloads are structured to reduce the number of downloads needed to form a national analysis and to issue new guidance covering the remaining seven quarterly reports to make reporting more uniform and reliable.
In a statement to the media, the Recovery Board said the government expected mistakes in the initial reporting and is working to correct them. Those corrections are shown in some of the data available at Recovery.gov. View more information on the three groups' problems with the reporting process.
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