Stakeholder Groups Seek Greater Government Transparency

February 18, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

glass-facade-reflections-1357129-mBack in 2009, it seemed like everything that came across my computer included the word “recovery.” This made perfect since as Congress had just passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Now, it seems that the key buzzword is “transparency.” Like a window, people simply feel that government information should be open and available.

The latest tidbit entails a recent letter to Congress sent by seven stakeholder groups seeking more transparency in federal grants and cooperative agreements. These groups are Cause of Action, Center for Effective Government, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Defending Dissent Foundation, iSolon.org, Project on Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense. They contend that too little is known about where federal funds go, how it is awarded and how to apply for funds.

The groups came out in support of H.R. 3316, the Grant Reform and New Transparency Act, otherwise known as the GRANT Act, which was reported out of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last October. “We applaud these reform efforts,” according to the letter. “Prospective grant recipients should be able to access and understand decisionmaking criteria, agencies should apply criteria fairly and consistently, and the public should be able to provide oversight of the process.”

In particular, the groups favored the act’s provisions that would: require federal agencies to establish uniform standards for how they notice, award and disclose discretionary competitive grants, creating a more merit-based spending system, and to publish this information to the public in downloadable, searchable formats; and require the Office of Management and Budget to create an online portal that will serve as a central location for all grant information, criteria, weighting of different factors, ranking of applications, and a tool to help grantees manage their applications throughout the process.

However, the groups said more should be done to protect the integrity of the peer-review process while maximizing disclosure. Publishing statistical information about volume of grant applications, denied applications and processing time would also be a meaningful addition, they added.

It will be interesting to see if the GRANT Act comes any closer to becoming law. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what comes along tomorrow in the way of transparency.

How do you feel about government transparency? Is more needed? Let us know.  

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