Originally published April 1 2015
The lies just don't stop: White House's "transparency" website hides federal spending from public
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) President Barack Obama is perhaps the greatest revolutionary ever to set foot in the White House, and that's not a compliment. The man who promised you could keep your doctor and your health care plan, and that your rates and deductibles would fall as well, once also promised the most transparent administration in U.S. history.
On the issue of transparency, then, or lack thereof, it should come as no surprise that a recent redevelopment of a website ostensibly dedicated to more openly presenting information regarding federal spending actually makes it harder to find data.
Usaspending.gov, a website that is mandated by federal law to provide detailed information on every federal contract worth more than $3,000, got a recent makeover, according to the Washington Free Beacon. But now users are no longer able to search federal spending using keywords, or sort contracts by date, or otherwise easily locate details about contract awards, which are granted in bulk.
The WFB further reported:
Information, such as how much the Pentagon spends on Viagra, used to be available at the click of a button. Locating those same contracts on the new website is virtually impossible, akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
Transparency means the oppositeIn its previous iteration, the site gave users much easier access to information regarding how taxpayers' money is spent, and in real time. But now, users must have the federal grant ID number in order to see a contract's details.
The WFB noted that another facet of the redesign puts the word "transparency" before the online address of each of the site's individual web pages. And it provides a "spending map" to search via ZIP code, as well as "agency profiles," which only report totals of funding, sub-contractor awards and financial transactions. The highest dollar amounts of companies are listed but no links to specific contracts (so users also do not know what specific goods or services are being bid out).
"The public can search by recipient, though those results are also limited," the WFB reported. "A user must click on every contract to find a short description of what the spending involves."
In addition, users cannot search multiple years at the same time, which was a feature of the old design.
The website was the end product of a provision within the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, which required its creation. The site was to provide "full disclosure to the public of all entities or organizations receiving federal funds beginning in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007," the law states. It was called Usaspending.gov.
Can't build a functional web site"The purpose of the act is to provide the public with information about how their tax dollars are spent in greater detail in order to build public trust in government and credibility in the professionals who use these dollars," according to an explanation of the website from the U.S. Department of Education.
In addition, the website is was also to be designed to "encourage openness and communication about effectiveness," to "make more data and information available to the public," and to "increase the transparency of the grant application and award process." The Bush administration law mandated a "single searchable website, accessible by the public for free."
Finally, the site is also to include the following information on each award of federal spending: "The name of the entity receiving the award; the amount of the award; information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc.; the location of the entity receiving the award; and a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award."
The redesign, however, makes this information a lot harder to find.
Then again, as evidenced by the disastrous roll-out of Healthcare.gov, building websites is not the Obama administration's strong suit.
Neither, it seems, is transparency.
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