The Government Accountability Office outlined Jan. 24 lessons learned from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for ensuring grant implementation accountability in the future.
The report noted strong support for programs by top leaders was one of the most important aspects of successes in transparency and accountability.
According to the report, Recovery Act implementation officials had regular access to the president and vice president while tracking the act’s funds.
The government also learned collaboration played a key role in the accountability of the Recovery Act grant programs. By creating centrally situated governance structures such as the Recovery Implementation Office and the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board, the federal government could provide guidance and oversight to state and local partners implementing spending decisions.
“The RIO functioned as a convener and problem-solver that engaged with a wide range of federal state and local partners,” the report said.
The Recovery Act’s advisements and innovations in oversight facilitated accountability as well. Through the use of advanced data analytics, real-time information and up-front risk assessments, agencies were able to oversee Recovery Act spending more effectively.
GAO also found a number of challenges to oversight. Several states expressed concern that the Recovery Act did not provide funding to state oversight entities. Furthermore, the speed in which Recovery Act programs were rolled out made it difficult for agencies and states to keep pace with accountability requirements.
The Recovery Act was passed in 2009 after the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. About $219 billion was sent out in grants under the act. The Recovery Board and other organizations were responsible for tracking the money spent.
In September 2013, the Recovery Board’s mandate expired and was shifted to overseeing Hurricane Sandy relief funds until 2015.