White House, Issa Propose Government-Monitoring Boards

By Fred Lucas | June 14, 2011 | 4:13 AM EDT

In this Sept. 21, 2010, file photo Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. stands next to a painting of American Republican presidents during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Washington (CNSNews.com) - Both President Barack Obama and House Republicans pressed for more transparency and less waste in government on Monday.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced legislation to create permanent electronic reporting standards for all federal government contracts and grants, and to establish an independent board--similar to the one that oversaw the stimulus act--to monitor all federal spending.

Issa would call it the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board.

“Americans have the right to know what their government is doing with their money,” said Issa. “Incompatible technologies, inaccurate data, and a lack of common standards impede transparency. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act will revolutionize the accessibility of government information.”

Meanwhile, Obama signed an executive order to establish a new board to serve as a watchdog over all federal spending, and he placed Vice President Joe Biden in charge of the effort.

The Obama administration and the House oversight committee frequently have butted heads on matters but seem to have a shared vision on establishing an independent review panel. While the Obama executive order allows the board to take effect immediately, an act of Congress – proposed by Issa – would establish the board as binding law.

Biden told a gathering at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Monday the “new oversight board modeled on the recovery board was such a success for the last couple of years.”

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board – the model for both the Issa bill and the Obama executive order – actually has several problems.

The website, Recovery.gov, had an $18 million price tag, according to ABC News. In addition to that, Recovery.gov said jobs were created in 400 congressional districts that do not exist, such as the 15th congressional district of Arizona, and the 42nd congressional district of Connecticut.

Meanwhile, several media reports in late 2009 said that the supposed number of jobs “saved or created” by the $787 billion stimulus act was exaggerated.

Nevertheless, on the waste front, Biden said only $3 million out of almost $500 billion spent thus far was identified as waste. That’s because, he said, actions were taken to prevent waste and fraud ahead of time.

The other part of the executive order requires that cabinet secretaries regularly meet with the vice president to talk about ways to address waste.

“There's nothing like accountability, man,” Biden said Monday. “It sure focuses your attention. My father used to say accountability works really well especially when you're in the bull’s-eye. Let me tell you, we’re all in the bull’s-eye.”

The board will include inspectors general and agency chief financial officers and other federal officials who already serve a watchdog role.

One of the first orders of business by the administration is to address duplication of government websites. There are about 2,000 separate websites for federal agencies, according to the White House, which is calling for a halt to new websites and consolidation of 25 percent of the sites.

Issa praised the Biden initiative in a separate statement.

“There is common ground and bi-partisan support for legislation to increase transparency and openness in all federal spending because the problem we face is not a partisan one, it is a bureaucratic one,” Issa said.

“The bureaucracy is resistant to change. That’s why we need to enact legislation and establish a permanent and independent board to create transparency in federal spending. When I met with Vice President Biden in November, we both shared a vision of increased transparency in all federal spending,” he said.