And the data that does exist is wildly inaccurate, according to the Government Accountability Office, which looked at 2012 spending data. Only 2% to 7% of spending data onUSASpending.gov is “fully consistent with agencies’ records,” according to the report.
Among the data missing from the 6-year-old federal website:
• The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report nearly $544 billion, mostly in direct assistance programs like Medicare. The department admitted that it should have reported aggregate numbers of spending on those programs.
• The Department of the Interior did not report spending for 163 of its 265 assistance programs because, the department said, its accounting systems were not compatible with the data formats required by USASpending.gov. The result: $5.3 billion in spending missing from the website.
• The White House itself failed to report any of the programs it’s directly responsible for. At the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is part of the White House, officials said they thought HHS was responsible for reporting their spending.
For more than 22% of federal awards, the spending website literally doesn’t know where the money went. The “place of performance” of federal contracts was most likely to be wrong.
That’s a problem, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
“We live in a world in which information drives decisions,” Carper said. “And, given the budget constraints that our government faces, we need reliable information on how and where our money is being spent.”
No, this doesn’t mean that $619 billion has been “lost,” although some of it may have, indeed, gone down a black hole. What it means is that we have incompetents running federal departments. How can HHS not report $544 billion? Madness.
I’m sure the government will eventually get it all sorted out – mostly. The good news is that responsibility for the website is being switched to a department of the Treasury.
At least they have an idea how to count money.