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In Closed Bidding, Defense Contractor Gets $18M to Open Up Recovery.gov

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, July 9 2009

We'll get the to the irony, but first the facts. ABC News' Rick Klein broke the story that a Maryland-based IT firm has been awarded a five-year contract worth a full $18 million to revamp the struggling Recovery.gov website. By general consensus, Recovery.gov isn't doing a very good job fulfilling its raison d'etre, which is serving as a window on giant government contracts awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in an effort to cut down on waste, fraud, and abuse. And so, it needs to be improved. The contract was awarded as part of the closed Alliant Government Acquisition Contract, a $50 billion behemoth (described by GSA as "indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity" contract) that is open to only about 60 or so pre-approved government contractors. GSA's pre solicitation for the Recovery.gov redesign read, "There will be no public bid opening."

The lucky awardee for the Recovery.gov 2.0 contract, worth $9.5 million in the first six months alone, is called Smartronix Inc. According to the firm's website, the company is "a global professional solutions provider specializing in NetOps, Cyber Security, Enterprise Software Solutions, Defense & Commercial Products." Smartronix's client list is heavy on defense community organizations, including the Marine Corps, Navy, and the Pentagon.

Of course, there's some potential irony baked into what seems at first glance an out-sized government contract awarded in closed bidding, all to the end of increasing the transparency and oversight of government spending. In asking for bids, GSA said that the successful contractor "will use innovative and interactive technologies to help taxpayers see where their dollars are being spent." Good idea! To that end, an act.ly petition has sprung up asking that Smartronix conduct their build out of Recovery.gov 2.0 in an open and transparent way, including regular tweeting of how that $18 million is being spent. Will @whitehouse sign on? Stay tuned.

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In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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