Darrell Issa probing how agencies balance their books


(Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) (Bloomberg))
”Eye

On his first day in office, President Obama ordered agencies to adopt “an unprecedented level of openness” that would lead to the wider distribution of government information by releasing White House visitor logs, fulfilling more Freedom of Information Act requests and by publishing online government information long kept behind closed doors.

Transparency advocates and good-government groups initially cheered the reforms, but later panned the early efforts, arguing the information posted online was of little value. White House aides have defended the efforts, acknowledging that early stumbles were expected because Obama is the first president to tackle government transparency concerns with a serious, coordinated plan.

As part of the reforms, several departments have canceled or revamped the development of new business and accounting systems used to receive payments, distribute federal funds and grants, manage contracts and process worker payrolls. Many of the systems cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, but in some cases were years overdue or inoperable.

Issa — who has openly embraced the role as the administration’s chief overseer — has vowed to give a serious look at Obama’s open-government plans, arguing they’ve yet to endure a serious congressional review. His House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is already probing agency FOIA operations,and on Wednesday it asked for detailed information by late March on each agency’s business and accounting systems. The committee also wants to know what financial information is shared by agencies with the Treasury Department and Office of Management and Budget and what, if any data, is published online for public scrutiny.

Much of the government’s financial data is published on USASpending.gov, a government Web site established in 2006 by legislation sponsored by then-Sen. Obama and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

The site’s information on federal grants is frequently inaccurate, according to a recent report by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which has generally supported Obama’s transparency reforms. Issa and his colleagues seized on the findings and are holding a hearing Friday about the report — after all, any nonpartisan organization raising concerns with a program supported by Obama fits perfectly with their oversight plans. Future hearings are expected to focus on the information requested Wednesday, according to Issa’s office.

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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:

Tucson shooting suspect pleads not guilty: U.S. District Judge Larry Burns also approved the release of some records of a police search of Jared Lee Loughner’s home.

Justice Department: Speed up health care case: The Obama administration has asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to expedite consideration of the health care reform law — the second step in a process set in motion by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson.

NASA:

Space Shuttle Discovery lands for the last time: The final landing came after 27 years of service, exactly one cumulative year in space and an odometer reading of more than 148 million miles.

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Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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