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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


By Mr. REID (for Mr. OBAMA (for himself, Mr. COBURN, Mr. CARPER, and Mr. MCCAIN)):

S. 3077. A bill to strengthen transparency and accountability in Federal spending; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Mr. OBAMA. I am proud today to introduce the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008. This important legislation will improve Government transparency and give the American people greater tools to track and monitor nearly $2 trillion of Government spending on contracts, grants, and other forms of assistance.

Throughout my time in public service, I have consistently fought to increase the openness and accessibility of Government and to encourage greater participation by people of all interests and backgrounds in public debates. One of the most important public debates is how Washington spends the people's money. Unfortunately, it has been far too difficult for ordinary citizens to see where, how, and why money is spent.

Congress took a big step toward improving transparency two years ago when it passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act that I introduced with Senator Coburn. That bill, which created the public website, makes information about nearly all Federal grants, contracts, loans and other financial assistance available to the public in a regularly updated, user-friendly, and searchable format. The website includes the names of entities receiving Federal awards, the amounts of the awards, information on the awards including transaction types, funding agencies, location, and other information. Soon the website will also include information about subcontracts and subgrants.

Our work is not done however. The early success of has demonstrated that additional public information should be made available. Whether you believe Government ought to spend more or spend less or just spend differently, we all should be able to agree that Government spending should be transparent and that public information ought to be accessible to the public. We should also be able to agree that the quality of Government financial data must be improved and made more reliable.

Today I am pleased to be joined by Senators COBURN, CARPER, and MCCAIN on a bill to build upon and further advance Government transparency. In addition to a few technical corrections, the bill we are introducing today will require the website to include additional public information, including a copy of each Federal contract in both PDF and searchable text format. The improved website will also include details about competitive bidding, the range of technically acceptable bids or proposals, the profit incentives offered for each contract, and the complete amount of money awarded, including any options to expand or extend under a contract.

With this legislation, the website will also show if a Federal grant or contract is the result of an earmark as well as provide an assessment of the quality of work performed. Ordinary citizens will be able to use the website to find information about Federal audit disputes and resolutions, terminations of Federal awards, contractor and grantee tax compliance, suspensions and debarments, and administrative agreements involving Federal award recipients. The website can also be used to find information about any civil, criminal, or administrative actions taken against Federal award recipients, including for violations related to the workplace, environmental protection, fraud, securities, and consumer protections.

Under the enhanced website, information about government lease agreements and assignments will be available in the same manner that information is reported for contracts and grants. Information about parent company ownership will also be available.

In addition to improving the transparency and accessibility of public data, our bill will also improve the quality and usability of data that is made available. For one thing the data on will be accessible through an application programming interface. The bill also requires the use of unique award identifiers that prevent the release of personally identifiable information. Finally, the bill creates a simple method for the public to report errors and track the performance of agencies in confirming or correcting errors while also requiring regular audits of data quality.

People from every State in this great Nation sent us to Congress to defend their rights and stand up for their interests. To do that we have to tear down the barriers that separate citizens from the democratic process and to shine a brighter light on the inner workings of Washington.

This bill helps to shine that light. It is simple common sense and good governance that has been endorsed by a diverse range of grassroots organizations and Government watchdog groups, including the American Association of Law Libraries, Americans for Democratic Action, Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Environmental Working Group, the Federation of American Scientists, the Government Accountability Project, the National Taxpayer Union, OMB Watch,, POGO, Public Citizen, Sciencecorps, the Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense Action, U.S. Action, and U.S. PIRG among others.

This bill continues the bipartisan progress we have made opening up Washington to greater scrutiny and oversight. I am grateful for continued grassroots leadership on these issues and I appreciate the hard work of my Senate colleagues. Together I know we can change the way business is done in this town and make our Government more accountable to the people who sent us here to work for them. I urge support for this important legislation.

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