While the Obama Administration struggles to figure out how it will track federal stimulus dollars down to the local level a private sector company is already doing it in real-time speed.
Onvia, a Seattle-based company that employs roughly 200 people, has created a free application that allows the public to search what Obama’s $787 billion stimulus is paying for on their websites, recovery.com and recovery.org.
Meanwhile, the administration’s spending site, www.recovery.gov, merely offers a series of press releases and links to other government agencies, prompting complaints from several lawmakers.
“This is just what we do everyday anyway,” said Onvia’s Chief Information Officer Eric Gillespie. Onvia’s recovery websites are just a small part of his company. The company was created to notify small businesses, contractors and others who may bid for government contracts of potential business opportunities. Its platform is a highly-complex monitoring system that scours information from some 89,000 different federal, state and local agencies and then collapses the data into a standardized, easy-to-understand manner before making it available to their paid subscribers.
“It’s literally a living platform, so every single day there is a change in the market place from some state municipality or some school district that changes how they report that information and we have to nimbly react to that information,” Gillespie explained. “As the federal government brought this forward and talked about tracking every dime we believed it was going to be difficult and rather than wait for the administration to put their solution in place we almost felt like we had an ethical obligation to do this for job creation and to help the flow of capital get into local economies.”
Obama’s stimulus bill allocated $84 million to create a Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board charged with finding a way to do on recovery.gov something comparable to what Onvia has done with recovery.com and recovery.org. Obama said the government website would publish “information about how the funding secured in this legislation will be spent in a timely, targeted and transparent manner,” but those details are not available on recovery.gov.
Gillespie applauded the administration’s efforts but doubted their staff would be able to do it. “It’s [the money] probably not going to get them there,” he said. “Unless there is some secret sauce we are not aware of and we have done this a very long time. It’s a Herculean task to figure it out.”