March 20, 2009

Crowdsourcing Accountability: How to Prevent Stimulus Waste and Fraud

Key materials
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Highlights of Jerry Brito's Testimony 

There are four key issues that the administration and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board must address soon: the depth of disclosure, standardization, aggregation and centralized access.

First is the question of how deeply disclosure will go. While the Recovery Act requires that recipients of federal stimulus funds report, to awarding agencies, how the funds are spent, there is no clear instruction that every level of subcontract or subgrant must be disclosed.

The second key issue is standardization. At this point, the OMB Guidance does not explain what fields we should expect Recovery.gov to publish, if and when spending reporting becomes available. That is, we don’t know what the columns of our metaphorical spreadsheet will be; we don’t know by what data fields we will be able to sort.

Closely related to standardization is the third issue of aggregation. When information sharing is standardized along critical dimensions of who, what, where, and when, it becomes much easier to automatically aggregate, or roll-up, information automatically with computers.

The fourth and final issue is centralized access to the data. The distributed nature of the projects means information will ultimately come from many sources, just as information on the Web comes from many sources. But for the information to be user-friendly, this information must be searchable from central locations by both humans and computers.