Stimulus Transparency Is Coming... Soon

Wednesday, October 14th 2009, 10:37 pm
By: News On 6

By Alex Cameron, Oklahoma Impact Team

OKLAHOMA CITY -- An important part of President Obama's sales pitch for the stimulus package was the promise of unprecedented transparency. However, that transparency is coming just a bit later than expected.

Oklahoma and all entities receiving federal stimulus dollars were required to submit their first reports detailing stimulus spending by October 10. Oklahoma's Director of Finance, Michael Clingman, said the state met that deadline with the expectation that the data would be posted on the federal recovery Web site almost immediately. Clingman said the feds miscalculated.

"They said the day after this report gets to us, we're going to have all this on the web, then they changed their mind realizing the massive amount of work to make this user-friendly," Clingman said.

A posting on the federal site now says that this data will be released sometime between October 12 and October 30.

Critics of the stimulus, like two-time Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Vince Orza, said that's beside the point.

"The very fact that we keep hearing the word transparency is a bit comical to me because people talk about it like they're doing some great favor. 'We'll be transparent.' 'Gee, you mean you'll tell us what you're doing with our money?'" Orza said.

Orza said it's well and good to post stimulus expenditures, but true transparency requires more than that.

"I'd be curious to see, what did we do on bids [and] cost comparisons, or did we just spend the money because we said we wanted to stimulate the economy," Orza said.

Complete project bid information will not be available, on either the federal site or the state's own recovery site, which also remains, for now, a work in progress.

Finance Director Clingman is responsible for the state recovery Web site. He said, once all the data they've just submitted to Washington is vetted, it will be posted there. Included on the site will be graphs showing precisely how much stimulus money has been spent in each quarter, a detailed breakdown of spending by category, and tabs that allow end-users to drill down behind the numbers.

"You go to a site, you see how much we received in a grant, how much has been spent now, then you'll be able to click that and look to see which vendors got paid, and which projects they worked on," Clingman said.

There will also be estimates of how many jobs each project has created with cumulative job creation tallies by quarter and overall. Data shown just to the Oklahoma Impact Team suggests that stimulus spending through the month of September had created more than 3,600 jobs in the state.

Similar data on stimulus money that's gone directly to city, county and tribal governments in Oklahoma will not, however, be on the state site. Clingman said that level of detail will only be found on the federal site.

"But between us and the feds, I think we'll have a good comprehensive way to find out exactly what kind of help the stimulus money has given to the state of Oklahoma," Clingman said.