Bush backs US spending bill

4 October 2006
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05 October 2006 | Paul Snell

US president George Bush has praised a new bill designed to give taxpayers greater transparency on government spending, and to reduce fraud.

The UK is considering the adoption of similar measures.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, passed by the US Senate and House of Representatives last month, approves the creation of a website that will give details of how much money organisations are receiving from the government.

The website will disclose the amount of funding given to companies, associations and other organisations. It will also include information on grants, loans and financial assistance, and will cover the award of contracts, subcontracts, and purchase orders.

Bush said in a statement: "This legislation demonstrates a commitment to giving the American people access to timely and accurate information about how their tax dollars are spent."

Creation of the site will be the responsibility of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the White House department responsible for procurement policy. The OMB has been given a deadline of 1 January 2008 to implement it.

Rob Portman, director of the OMB, said in a statement: "American taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being used. This legislation will help cast the bright light of public scrutiny on federal grants and contracts, and will help reduce wasteful and ineffective spending."

A Senate committee uncovered tens of billions of dollars in fraud, abuse and wasteful federal spending last year. The US government has recently faced criticism over contracts awarded in Iraq and spending in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Senators said the site would help reduce fraud, abuse and misallocation of funds.

Any information about contracts will have to be put on the website within 30 days of their award.

Details of transactions below $25,000 (£13,174) will not be included on the database, nor will those made on credit card before 1 October 2008.

The UK has no central repository for contract award data, but an Office of Government Commerce spokesman told SM it was considering how to "capture and understand this type of information".

OMB Watch, a non-profit advocacy organisation that monitors the OMB, said it was concerned the information could still be inaccessible, since the passage of the bill does not guarantee the website will be easy to use. Later this month, the group will launch its own website to track federal spending.

SMoct2006

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