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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included unprecedented provisions to disclose how more than $275 billion in grants, contracts, and loans were spent under the Act. These requirements fell not only on federal agencies but also the recipients and sub-recipients of these monies. In many cases, state governments were the focal point for collecting and reporting this information. How did states respond? Did this increased transparency change how states managed their own monies as well as federal dollars? Are there lessons for future transparency efforts at the state or federal levels?
Dr. Rojas examines the experiences of six states with a range of experiences with the implementation of the Recovery Act’s transparency requirement – Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, and Washington. She interviewed federal and state officials as well as journalists and advocacy groups covering the Recovery Act.
The proponents of the Recovery Act’s transparency provisions envisioned thousands of “citizen IGs” serving as the “eyes and ears” for the accountability of the thousands of projects supported by the monies. However, Dr. Rojas did not find that the transparency websites served that role as broadly as originally envisioned. Her most interesting insight is that the federal law’s transparency provisions improved the capacity of state officials to better manage the disbursement of federal funds under the Recovery Act.
The report offers recommendations to federal and state officials in the design and implementation of future transparency initiatives. It is one of a series examining the implementation of the Recovery Act, which was the largest effort undertaken by the federal government in over 60 years, nearly doubling federal discretionary spending in the 17-month period after its enactment. Other IBM Center reports in this series include: