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Open Government Groups Urge Senators to Restore Funding for Transparency Efforts

Thanks OMB Watch and the Sunlight Foundation! These two open government groups just sent a letter to the Senate about the E-Gov Fund in the second “minibus” appropriations bill. In the letter, the groups raise and echo concerns regarding the funding level for e-government in the Statement of Administration Policy concerning H.R. 2354. They state that funding levels are inadequate to support crucial transparency programs such as USAspending.gov and Data.gov and ask that the E-Gov Fund remain a separate budget line to preserve the reporting requirements of the E-Gov Act, which provide transparency about how this money is spent.

Here’s the text of the OMBWatch/Sunlight letter:


November 16, 2011

Re: FY 2012 Appropriations for the Electronic Government Fund

Dear Senators:

We are writing to urge you to protect funding for the Electronic Government Fund at the General Services Administration in H.R. 2354, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. As currently written, H.R. 2354 would not provide adequate funding for the E-Gov Fund’s important programs, which provide critical support for the construction of a more transparent and efficient government and serve as a building block for private-sector innovations that create high-tech jobs.

The E-Gov Fund has a proven track record of successful transparency projects that have delivered efficiency improvements and increased government accountability. For instance, USAspending.gov and the IT Dashboard have helped root out government waste and inefficiency and recently led to the elimination of some $3 billion in failing technology projects. PaymentAccuracy.gov shines a light on improper federal payments, which total billions of dollars each year, and Challenge.gov provides a low-cost platform to help agencies bring the public in to identify more efficient solutions to problems facing the country.

In addition, E-Gov Fund projects provide the framework for vibrant private-sector business and job creation. The thousands of government data sets now available through Data.gov are building blocks for innovative new IT products. For instance, the search engine Bing now integrates Medicare quality data into searches for hospitals. Brightscope, a start-up company, has raised $2 million in venture capital and created 30 jobs through their analysis of retirement plan data from the Department of Labor.

Unfortunately, cuts to the E-Gov Fund in FY 2011 have already hurt successful projects. Needed upgrades to increase transparency and improve data quality have been delayed or abandoned, and two early-stage projects have been terminated. Additional cuts will further hamper efforts to make government more efficient and transparent.

These cuts are penny-wise and pound-foolish. The E-Gov Fund supports powerful tools for reducing waste, fraud, and abuse and for creating private-sector jobs, and given appropriate funding, these projects result in benefits far in excess of their costs.

To support continued transparency, efficiency, and job creation, we respectfully urge you to restore full funding for the E-Gov Fund. In particular, we ask you to support the president’s recommendation of $34 million to preserve these important programs.

We also ask that the E-Gov Fund remain separate from the Federal Citizen Services Fund, as requested in the Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 2354. Because the proposed Information and Engagement for Citizens account would not be subject to reporting requirements of the Electronic Government Act of 2002 and has not been authorized by Congress, combining the funds would decrease government transparency and accountability.

We appreciate your time and attention to this issue. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue further, please contact Sam Rosen-Amy of OMB Watch at (202) 683-4806 or Daniel Schuman of the Sunlight Foundation at (202) 742-1520 x 273.

Sincerely,

OMB Watch Sunlight Foundation

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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