Ever wonder where your hard-earned tax dollars go and who receives them?

Do you wonder how many contracts, grants or other earmarks certain companies or special interests are getting from Washington politicians?

Unfortunately, right now there is no easy way for us taxpayers to answer those questions.

Simply put, there is no single source or database where a taxpayer can search for how much money a specific company or special interest group receives from the federal government. Given that politicians like to spend money and channel it to their supporters, most politicians would like to keep the process confusing and hidden. They benefit from a lack of transparency.

But there is some good news. Taxpayers might soon have a powerful and public resource to find out what the politicians are doing with their tax dollars.

In keeping with our mission of promoting transparency in government, the Performance Institute has been actively involved in promoting passage of a law that would create a single database online where the public could search ALL federal programs to see how their tax dollars are spent.

Two years ago I was appointed by the White House to the Federal Acquisition Reform Commission. The commission’s mandate is to study ways to make the federal contracting process more transparent, accountable, and competitive. We’ve made a number of findings and recommendations to improve oversight of how contracts are awarded, reform inter-agency contract vehicles to maximize competition, and stiffen ethical standards in government contracting.

On the issue of transparency, the commission approved a proposal to direct an Executive Branch study of creating “single, integrated and web-accessible database searchable by the public” on all contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, and other transactions awarded to individuals and organizations.

The administration has endorsed the idea. Congress is moving on the idea as well! Last week, the US Senate passed the 2006 Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S.2590)-which would create the database. This bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).

Passage of S.2590 comes on the heels of a similar measure sponsored by House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va) that passed the House in June. However, the system that would be created by the House measure would only include information on grants. It would leave out all spending through contracts, earmarks and other financial transfers. In other words, the database would be incomplete and would fail to offer the full transparency taxpayers need to police monies politicians are giving specific individuals or companies.

The institute has worked with a coalition of other good government groups to support the passage of the Senate version of the bill. The next step in the legislative process will be a “conference” between the Senate and House to resolve differences in the two bills. Hopefully the final bill will integrate ALL funding vehicles (contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, earmarks, transfers, etc.) into one single database.

You can help by letting Congress know your view on this idea! Send an email today!

CARL DeMAIO

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