Open government leaders support funding for key transparency initiatives

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OMB Watch and the Sunlight Foundation today [November 16, 2011] released an open letter to the U.S. Senate supporting continued funding for the Electronic Government Fund's important transparency projects. The letter echoes the Obama administration's policy statement issued Nov. 10.

The letter calls for full funding for the E-Gov Fund, which pays for flagship projects such as and In April, Congress short-sightedly slashed the E-Gov Fund by 75 percent, from $34 million to $8 million, drastically reducing the fund’s ability to maintain current transparency tools or develop new ones. The House Appropriations Committee has proposed a slight increase for the fund next year, but Senate appropriators proposed an additional cut.

The Senate proposal may now be moving toward a floor vote as part of the second so-called "minibus" of spending bills packaged with H.R. 2354. We're hopeful that senators will take this opportunity to reverse the cuts that Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and a coalition of open government groups called "penny-wise and pound-foolish."

In addition to the drastic spending cuts, the bill contains another provision that would endanger the effectiveness of the E-Gov Fund. Both the House and the Senate proposals would eliminate the E-Gov Fund as a separate budget line, instead combining it with the Federal Citizen Services Fund to create a new "Information and Engagement for Citizens" account. Although the same office in the General Services Administration (GSA) oversees both funds, they have separate purposes and authorizations. Specifically, the E-Government Act of 2002 created the E-Gov Fund and detailed its functions and procedures, including requirements to report on how the funds are being spent and what results are being achieved. These reporting requirements increase the transparency and accountability of the E-Gov Fund – but they might not apply to a new budget line not authorized by any law.

At a time when Congress is scrounging for every last penny, it would be counterproductive to cut short the very tools that shed light on federal spending and performance. Congress should provide adequate resources for the E-Gov Fund in order to give the American people the transparency they deserve.

originally posted at OMB Watch

Policy analyst at OMB Watch, working for a more open and accountable government. He's @opengavin on Twitter.

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