Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Challenges Facing and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board

Challenges Facing and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board

By Dennis D. McDonald

The new Administration’s web site has gone “live.” The President has a brief introductory video, an initial timeline of events is provided, the public is asked for input on the impacts of current economic conditions via  “recovery stories,” a map shows job impacts, and an appeal is made for input to the activities of the new Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board that will be monitoring performance. 

Here’s what the site says about the Board:

The job of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board is to make sure that fulfills its mandate — to help citizens track the spending of funds allocated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Board consists of Inspectors General from about ten major cabinet agencies — including the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Commerce — and one of its duties will be to review the comments and questions submitted to the site.

Though the Board has not yet met, please feel free to submit your comments and questions below, and they will be gathered to present to the Board upon its first meeting.

Here’s how I responded via the Board’s “suggestion box”:

Whatever methods are developed to represent and report on the various processes that are involved in implementing the stimulus, they need to be understandable to professionals and to the public.

There needs to be developed a way to render the same data set in terms that are meaningful both to policy makers and to the public.

And, we need to makes sure that purely quantitative measures can be supplemented by the actual commentary provided by those affected.

The development of such measures for reporting on progress should be conducted openly as there are many interesting viewpoints that can contribute value in the process.

Finally, beware the involvement of vendors who insist on restricting access through incorporation of proprietary tools and techniques that cannot be easily copied and re-used by others.

This is all very exciting. It has the potential for — I apologize in advance for using this over-used term — being “transformational” in how government is conducted.

It’s not just the performance of the “stimulus” package that will be interesting to track, though. How the Administration develops the systems and processes that are needed to track and report on progress in an open and interactive fashion will also impact the recovery. Whether you call these systems and processes “e-government” or “government 2.0” or something else entirely, they will need careful planning as well as speed and experimentation. No one has ever tried to do “open government” before on such a massive scale. As I’ve pointed out already, the challenges that must be faced are great.

We have seen in recent days how a constant onslaught of negative economic news negatively impacts public sentiment. In spiralling fashion this further erodes confidence, spending, and the economy.

There now exists the strong possibility that how the public sees and experiences the programs reported through may have just as much potential for driving economic improvement as the programs themselves.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald.

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