Press Releases

Sen. Carper Joins Sens. Obama and Coburn on the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008

Legislation would expand public information available on USASpending.gov

Jun 03 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) today introduced the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 (S.3077), which would expand the information available on USASpending.gov, as well as make the data more accessible and readable. USASpending.gov (aka “Google for Government”), created by the Coburn-Obama Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 and launched in December 2007, makes public information about nearly all Federal grants, contracts, loans and other financial assistance available in a regularly updated, user-friendly, and searchable format.

This new legislation would allow USASpending.gov visitors to view copies of Federal contracts, as well as information about competitive bidding, earmarks, government lease agreements, work quality, Federal audit disputes, any violations or criminal activities, Federal tax compliance, and government reports. It would also improve website searchability, provide a method to report errors, ensure data accuracy, and require a quality audit of the website every six months.

Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and John McCain (R-AZ) are original cosponsors of this legislation.

“We should do everything we can to ensure that the American public can easily access and track how the Federal government does its business,” said Senator Obama. “Our government took an important step last year by launching USASpending.gov and giving ordinary citizens an important tool to hold Washington accountable. While USASpending.gov has had tremendous success, this new legislation will expand the public information available on the website and improve the quality of government financial data. I thank Senator Coburn and the many government watchdog groups who have worked with me on this issue, and I hope Congress will quickly pass this important legislation.”

“In our system of government the best ethics reform has always been frequent elections and the ability of citizens to hold their elected officials accountable. This legislation will give the American people valuable new tools in that effort. I’m proud to have worked with Senators McCain, Obama and Carper on this important legislation,” Dr. Coburn said.

“I’m pleased to have the opportunity to work once again with my Senate colleagues to improve the transparency of federal spending. This bill is a continuation of our efforts to give taxpayers the power to know exactly what their money is being spent on and to help us in our efforts to root out waste and fraud. This legislation makes it much easier to hold agencies, contractors and others who receive federal funding accountable for their activities and their performance,” said Senator Carper.

In April 2006, Obama and Coburn introduced the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590), which would publicly disclose all recipients of federal funding and financial assistance through a website to be established and maintained by the Office of Management and Budget. The President signed this legislation into law in September 2006 and USASpending.gov was launched in December 2007.

Today, USASpending.gov tracks approximately $1 trillion in Federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans, provides real-time updates of data concerning Federal spending, gives users an opportunity to post comments and provide feedback, and displays spending data according to contractor, grantee, and congressional district. 

This Act would expand information on USASpending.gov to include:

 - A copy of each Federal contract in both PDF and searchable text format.

 - Details about competitive bidding, the range of technically acceptable bids or proposals, and the profit incentives offered for each contract.

 - The complete amount of money awarded, including any options to expand or extend under a contract.

 - An indication if the Federal award is the result of an earmark.

 - Information about government lease agreements and assignments in the same manner that information is reported for contracts, grants, and other assistance.

 - An assessment of the quality of work performed on Federal awards.

 - Information about Federal audit disputes and resolutions, terminations of Federal awards, suspensions and debarments, and administrative agreements involving Federal award recipients.

 - Information about any civil, criminal, or administrative actions taken against Federal award recipients, including for violations related to the workplace, environmental protection, fraud, securities, and consumer protections.

 - Information about Federal tax compliance by Federal award recipients.

 - Information about parent company ownership that will be made accessible, along with other data on USASpending.GOV, through application programming interfaces.

 - Links to publicly available Government reports.

The Act would improve data quality on USASpending.gov through:

  - Improved searchability of data and use of unique award identifiers that prevent the release of sensitive personally identifiable information.

 - A simple method for the public to report errors and track the performance of agencies in confirming or correcting the records for which error reports have been filed. 

 - Agency inspectors general review statistically representative samples of agency awards to verify accuracy and compliance with improved data standards. 

 - General quality audit of website data every six months, including review and report of public error reporting system and recommendations for new quality standards and procedures.

The Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 has been endorsed by the American Association of Law Libraries, Americans for Democratic Action, Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Environmental Working Group, the Federation of American Scientists, the Government Accountability Project, the National Taxpayers Union, OMB Watch, OpenTheGovernment.org, POGO, Public Citizen, Sciencecorps, the Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense Action, US Action, and U.S. PIRG.