Administration Taking Recovery Accountability Government-wide

This morning, Vice President Joe Biden announced a major initiative to identify and eliminate government waste – the “Campaign to Cut Waste.” As Biden was announcing the initiative, President Obama issued a new executive order authorizing the main components of the campaign. The expansion of accountability measures for federal spending is a welcome and productive move by the administration.

The new effort seeks to build off the success of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (Recovery Board) overseeing the hundreds of billions spent under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus bill. Biden credited the Recovery Board with keeping fraud and waste at an all-time low for recovery spending, thanks to new computer modeling and data analysis tools. Biden stressed the importance of deterring fraud before it ever occurs and praised the work of Earl Devaney, chair of the Recovery Board, for establishing a model that can be applied to all of government.

The executive order, “Delivering an Efficient, Effective, and Accountable Government,” expands aspects of the Recovery Act oversight to operate government-wide. First, the E.O. establishes an Accountable Government Initiative that will require cabinet-level agencies to regularly meet with the vice president to discuss progress on identifying waste. This type of regular oversight discussions with agency officials was seen as successful for the Recovery Board. The goals of the Accountable Government Initiative were first announced last September through an OMB memo from OMB Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients, who is also the federal Chief Performance Officer.

The E.O. also assigned responsibilities to other officials, including Zients, who will lead on identifying practices that should be adopted across agencies and in facilitating reforms that require cross-agency coordination and cooperation. The director of OMB will provide agencies with guidance for identifying program overlap and duplication for the FY 2013 budget process. Within agencies, Chief Operating Officers are designated as the Senior Accountable Officials responsible for leading performance and management reform efforts, while the Chief Financial Officers will be responsible for achieving agency cost savings.

The E.O. also establishes a new Government Accountability and Transparency (GAT) Board to be made up of 11 members designated by the president from among agency Inspectors General, agency Chief Financial Officers or Deputy Secretaries, a senior official from OMB, and such other members as the president designates. This board, similar in responsibility to the Recovery Board, will provide strategic direction to agencies on this campaign and regularly report to the vice president. The board is also tasked to with reporting to the vice president in six months with proposals for integrating systems that collect and display government spending.

It is likely that Devaney will play a leadership role in the GAT Board, since Biden introduced Devaney and heavily praised him. Even as such, there was no formal announcement that Devaney or other members of the Recovery Board will be selected to be part of the new GAT Board or if the administration will simply seek to recreate the successful effort with new people. The Recovery board is set to expire in 2013 with the final expenditures under the Recovery Act.

Biden noted that the creation of the GAT Board is being coordinated in a bipartisan fashion with members of Congress. Demonstrating that support, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) plans to introduce a bill at any moment that transforms the Recovery Board into a Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board (FAST Board). The FAST Board would consolidate,, and other federal spending websites and oversee a new website or portal to websites. The FAST Board would also have oversight responsibility like the GAT Board to prevent waste and fraud in government spending.

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