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Oversight Committee Hearing Explores the Future of Transparency in Federal Spending

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, June 14 2011

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) at today's hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Screen capture from oversight.house.gov

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform just concluded a hearing on accountability and transparency in federal spending after the release of Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Ca.) DATA Act, a bill announced yesterday that would establish an independent body to track all federal spending, electronically, using a set of consistent, government-wide standards.

It was the opening round in a series of negotiations over how the federal government will track and report its spending going forward. The White House yesterday released a signed executive order from President Barack Obama that seems to do many of the same things called for in Issa's bill. During the hearing, Issa repeatedly referenced bipartisanship, saying that he wants to arrive at a solution for federal expenditure reporting that the administration will support.

"We can only go so far in proposing," Issa, chairman of the oversight committee, said during the hearing, which was streamed live on the committee's website. "We need to make sure we keep the president and his administration where they mostly are now, which is on board in concept."

In a statement, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee's ranking Democrat, voiced support for the White House plan, which does not go as far into specifics as Issa's initiative. (More on both of those here.)

Under both the White House and Issa plans, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — created to track the disbursement of Recovery Act funds and led by Earl Devaney, a former Secret Service agent — serves as inspiration for an independent board that will track federal expenditures. Today, Devaney released his own vision for a successor to the Recovery Board and testified at the Issa hearing alongside Sunlight Foundation Executive Director Ellen Miller, OMBWatch's Craig Jennings, and Kim Wallin, the Nevada state comptroller.

Devaney called for the federal government to scale up the technology infrastructure created to track Recovery Act spending and apply it to spending by the entire federal government.

Written testimony from the witnesses is available here.