Obama Versus Issa on Transparency, Accountability, Oversight

June 13, 2011 | By Adrianne Fielding | Post a Comment

“The truth is, no one reads this thing,” declared President Obama, pointing to a stack of Federal Registers. Ceasing hard-copy publication of the Federal Register (which has been available online for years) is “just the tip of the iceberg” for the administration’s “Campaign to Cut Waste,” whose launch was announced today via a video message from the president.

The campaign became official this morning through an Executive Order signed by the president that noted its intent to “reinforce the performance and management reform gains achieved thus far; systematically identify additional reforms necessary to eliminate wasteful, duplicative, or otherwise inefficient programs; and publicize these reforms so that they may serve as a model across the Federal Government.”

The effort expands upon the administration’s Accountable Government Initiative, which was led by the Office of Management and Budget’s Director and its Deputy Director for Management and Federal Chief Performance Officer, and whose achievements were touted in a recent White House statement. At a White House event today, Vice President Joe Biden noted that he will have a leading role in the newly announced initiative, challenging federal agencies to cut waste “as part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to make government more accountable to the American people.”

One of the major initiatives in today’s Executive Order, entitled “Delivering an Efficient, Effective, and Accountable Government,” is the establishment of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board.  The 11-member board (presumably known as GATB), will continue and extend the work of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board through its mission to “provide strategic direction for enhancing the transparency of Federal spending and advance efforts to detect and remediate fraud, waste, and abuse in Federal programs.”

The other significant mandate in today’s Executive Order requires Cabinet members and the director of OMB to meet regularly with the Vice President to report on the results of their agencies’ efforts to make the federal government “work better, faster, and more efficiently.”

Will the Executive Order take the wind out of the sails of Rep. Darryl Issa, R-Calif.?  Issa proposed a bill today with a number of transparency and streamlining initiatives.  However, while today’s Executive Order reinforces OMB’s primacy in federal spending oversight, Issa’s “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act” would remove that oversight from OMB’s hands by creating an independent body to track federal spending.  The DATA Act also calls for a single publicly available electronic platform with consistent reporting standards and data identifiers, plus the creation of a Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board as a permanent successor to the RATB.

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