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Friday, March 13, 2009

Open-government advocates disappointed about watered-down bill

A House bill that was initially lauded by watchdog groups is now being criticized by them, Washington Independent reported. The bill no longer requires all contracts stemming from the stimulus bill to be posted online. Only summaries of contracts worth more than $500,000 will be available to the public.

Internet junkies and wonks alike may have jumped the gun in looking forward to the new online transparency hyped by House members who vowed to put contracts doled out from the $800 billion stimulus package online.

That promise, included in the initial House bill, was hailed by watchdog groups, who pointed to it as real reform in government contracting. However, in a major concession to government contractors, which opposed having the contracts made public, the final bill requires only a “summary of the contracts” to be posted online; and even the summaries will only be available for contracts worth more than $500,000.

According to the law, the government has to provide certain data about federal contracts, including whether the contracting process was competitive, how the contract was awarded, and for those contracts over $500,000 “a summary of the contract.”

More here.

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