Reporting the Non-Reporters
by Craig Jennings, 12/16/2009
A Nov. 30 OMB memo to agencies, "Improving Compliance in Recovery Act Recipient Reporting," instructed the federal agencies to "compile a verified and detailed list of recipients who were required to report in the October period but failed to do so." The lists was to be submitted to OMB by Dec. 4.
This list and two others -- significant errors in recipient reports and reports appearing to have reports appeared to have "overall incorrect and invalid data" -- are now available on Recovery.gov.
I applaud the Recovery Board's somewhat timely action in making these lists available, and I look forward to seeing agency action to
browbeat assist the non-reporters in getting their info into FederalReporting.gov.
I am annoyed, however, that the 4,359-record non-report list is published as a PDF (238 pages!), preventing searching and sorting of the data. Also annoying is that the list omits a pretty crucial variable -- dollar amount of the award that wasn't reported.
Now, it's possible that the Board's top priority was to make this lists publicly available as soon as possible, and putting it up as a PDF and not as searchable and downloadable data was the most expedient way to do so. If the Board opted for timeliness instead of utility, then I look forward to being able to download the non-report data in the coming weeks. On the other hand, it's not exactly rocket science to put data on a website! In a former life I was a website programmer, and I know first-hand that a talented development team can turn a spreadsheet into a sortable, paginated table within hours. So, I'm mystified that the Board would have to even make choice between timeliness and usefulness. (Of course, if the Board is eschewing data-driven transparency generally -- which I do not believe is the case -- that's a whole other discussion.)