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Auditors raise doubts about stimulus numbers, but expect data will improve

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 6:33 p.m. ET

Government auditors raised doubts Thursday about the number of jobs created or saved by the economic stimulus program, but they also cautioned that erroneous mistakes reported in recent weeks signal the benefits of government transparency.

Earl Devaney
Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board Chairman Earl Devaney

Roughly 10 percent of the recipients of stimulus dollars failed to submit quarterly reports last month, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.

"I think missing reports may drive the job numbers up, and I think there are enough inaccuracies in here to drive the numbers down," said Earl Devaney, chairman of the board that operates Recovery.gov, the government's stimulus-tracking Web site.

The Obama administration reported last month that the stimulus has directly created or saved 640,000 jobs thus far, but some officials cite independent estimates suggesting it has directly and indirectly created or saved more than 1 million jobs.

The fact that some recipients failed to report spending data last month "is distressing and must be addressed," Devaney said, suggesting that Congress should penalize recipients who fail to report.

"Perhaps an agency could refuse to provide any more funds to a non-compliant recipient," he said.

Some of the stimulus data actually reported needs additional scrutiny, GAO's lead auditor told members of the House oversight committee. Almost 4,000 designated recipients who have not yet received stimulus funding reported creating or saving more than 58,000 jobs, the report said. Another 9,200 recipients reported no job creation, despite receiving a total of $965 million.

As The Eye reported in Thursday's Post, the findings demonstrate the difficulty of counting jobs created by the stimulus. Some recipients may have misstated job numbers. Others may have decided to retain workers or hire new ones, knowing that they will receive stimulus funding in the near future.

But Devaney cautioned that potential mistakes aren't necessarily a bad thing.

"In reality, this data should serve in the long run as evidence of what transparency can achieve," he said. "In the past, this data would have been scrubbed from top to bottom before its release. The agencies would never have released the information until it was near perfect."

"You and the American public are now seeing what agencies have seen internally for years," Devaney said. "And what we are all seeing, at least following this first reporting period, is not particularly perfect. This raw form of unsanitized data may cause embarrassment to some agencies and recipients. My expectation is that any embarrassments will ensure self-correcting behavior and lead to better reporting in the future."

Republicans blasted the jobs figures, referring to the data as "propaganda" and "garbage," while others called the entire stimulus reporting process "disgusting."

Darrell Issa
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

"The administration continues to misread the economy, misunderstand the nature of economic growth, mislead the American people with faulty jobs claims and miss the steps this country needs to take to get or economy back on track," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). He was particularly critical of data suggesting that most of the job creation has been in the public sector.

"Schoolteachers are important, federal workers are important, but that's really where this has gone, rather than to the economic growth that this country is famous for," Issa said.

The task of defending the jobs numbers fell to Education Deputy Secretary Anthony W. Miller and Transportation Deputy Secretary John D. Porcari.

"There’s no question the Recovery Act is working as intended, putting Americans to work while making long-term investments in our infrastructure," Porcari said.

The administration has struggled to clearly define how to report new or saved jobs since it's difficult to know what role the funding played. Further complicating efforts, state and local governments have used much of the money to pay for temporary, part-time or seasonal work, making it unclear when and how such jobs should be reported.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday evening, White House stimulus adviser Ed DeSeve said the administration agrees with the GAO's recommendations and called the first quarterly reports "an honest effort on behalf of recipients."

DeSeve also defended the transparency of the recovery program, saying, "This has never been done before. You can't name another government program that has done this."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 19, 2009; 12:13 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Tracking the Stimulus  
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Comments

the award for best creative fiction--2009

and the winner is..........

rahm emmanuels "jobs saved" -2009

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 19, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

WHAT?! The government lied about the stimulus results???

What else is new.

Posted by: chilipop | November 19, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Gee, you mean the Administration lies!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | November 19, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Liar ! Liar ! Pants on Fire !!

Posted by: DebChatterjee | November 19, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

The only way that the Obama administration can create millions of jobs is by giving DIRECT GRANTS to new startup businesses.

Obama's way was to give billions of taxpayer dollars instead to the bankers who put him into power.

Are banks lending to small business today? They are not!

As we can see, these billions that Obama wasted on bankers is NOT in any way helping the US economy.

Obama is a failure with regards to jobs and should resign as he himself promised.

Posted by: rexsolomon | November 19, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

The White House hasn't given the American Public correct numbers since the request for the first stimulus package (remember Obama's 8% unemployment cap)up to the current cost of the proposed Health Plan(s). Every number given has been far too optimistic and presented to sell a controversial plan - it appears Obama and the White House are lying on purpose to get their legislation through congress. This shows a complete disregard for the future of the economy and America in general in their attempt to install their view of Government run Nanny-state.

Posted by: Realist20 | November 19, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

This does not bode well for the management and accountability of Obamacare.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | November 19, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The auditors suspect fraud, yet the Compost never suspected a thing. Amazing..

Posted by: SMWE357 | November 19, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

So the gov't run healthcare mess they are proposing will not cause a deficit and will be paid for, and we're supposed to believe this, huh?

This is the stupidist white house in history.

Posted by: civilemik | November 19, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

And how about all those fictional congressional districts that received stimulus money?

There are 8 congressional districts in Minnesota, but the stimulus tracking mechanism lists Minnesota as having 19 congressional districts, with the 11 fictitious districts receiving more than $7 million in stimulus spending.

And the federal government is going to manage a new health-care program without creating billions in waste and fraud? This is definitely "change" that we cannot afford to believe in.

Posted by: judithod | November 19, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. I wonder what "erroneous mistakes" are. If they aren't erroneous, then what are they -- error-free mistakes?

Posted by: MrsWhatsit | November 19, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

STIMULUS - Flawed my Grass!! - So far there has been NO STIMULUS at all America!? Over $2+ Trillion given to Criminal Banksters;- and NOTHING for the U.S. Citizens Suffering the Most!? - The DISABLED & ELDERLY Living in "POVERTY"!! - Does any Patriot consider Congress fair or just? CONGRESS must think e-the-People are stupid. - And We are!! - To allow these anti-Citizen Hucksters to continue in office. TRAITORS have infiltrated Our government, and are imposing their' Tyrannical Rules upon us all!! Our Founding-Fathers would demand another REVOLUTION!! - No where in Our CONSTITUION does it say - "we-the-banksters", or "we-the-corporations"!! -- Maybe in fine print it reads,-- 'we-the-suckers' !!?? -- Term-Limits NOW! - Send the Globalist Banksters back to Europe where they came from in 1913. - And REPEAL the un-Constitutional Federal Reserve Act!!! - Oh, we forgot, that may be impossible,- since Our Congress sleeps with these Globalist THUGS!!!

Posted by: jward52 | November 19, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

2010 and 2012 can't get here fast enough.

Maybe ACORN won't be able to cheat again by then.

Posted by: tjhall1 | November 19, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

When you are throwing trillions of dollars around carelessly, details aren't important.

Posted by: pkhenry | November 19, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Good eye on the pie Mr. Okeefe.

There was no crisis, just an attack on the people of America's financial backbone, throwing families enmasse out of homes and into streets with no jobs , just to bundle toxic assets for a misuse of the public dole, rather than let the bubble slowly move down with private pocket book use.
The crisis King got caught with his pants down here.

Americans using their own wallets would have displaced no one.

Posted by: dottydo | November 19, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

The Great Stimulus of 2009 = biggest con of the 21st century.

Posted by: Revcain777 | November 19, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs the trick is to add new ones in new sectors. We need a program that builds natural gas stations across the country, along with plants that manufacture the conversion kits for todays cars. The federal government runs the plants, the building or conversion of the stations, and the installation of the conversion kits just like the WPA. Then we lease or sell the stations which will have staffs to convert the cars that come in. We subsidize the whole deal until each one is making money then we sell or lease them for a profit. There are plenty of plants in Detroit to build the conversion kits.
As we plan and build and convert the stations along the highways across America making Natural Gas available the whole way, we get off our enemies oil and employ hundreds of thousands of laid off workers. This is a win, win. Just do it.
We all see what giving the monies to the states did. Nothing.....

Posted by: vonpfahl | November 19, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I just drove from Colorado to DC this month. Every state had large road construction projects that would not be happening if it were not for the stimulus bill. Not enough maybe but people who think there is "no" stimulus must be living in a hole. Talk to a teacher and drive somewhere.

Posted by: obamacan1 | November 19, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

this proves democrats are lazier and less employable than republicans:

Data from Rasmussen Reports national telephone surveys shows that 15.0% of Democrats in the workforce are currently unemployed and looking for a job. Among adults not affiliated with either major party, that number is 15.6% while just 9.9% of Republicans are in the same situation.
These findings are from interviews with 15,000 American adults in October. The numbers show an increase in all categories from earlier in the year.

Democrats are irresponsible lazy people. That's why they want free health care, unemployment, food stamps, abortions, etc. They are so lazy they can't even put on a condom to avoid disease and pregnancy.

Posted by: charlietuna666 | November 19, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Creative booking at its finest...We've done this and we've done that and we've saved this and we've saved that....Superman to the rescue...Obama soaring over tall buildings....When the American people finally realize the fraud that has been perpetrated on them by Obama and his anti-American koolaiders they may topple Washington and violence will ensue. These figures are nothing but LIES

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | November 19, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

This is not "news"...it is "history".

Posted by: wcmillionairre | November 19, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

the "jobs saved" obama financial report

is bernie madoff's work release project

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 19, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

the "jobs saved" obama financial report

is bernie madoff's work release project

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 19, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Meantime, with 15 million Americans without jobs & Millions more working temporary & part time jobs , the invasion continues, no Liberal Politician will address the 500 pound gorilla in the room, and millions of invading, plundering, welfare loving, prolific breeding, Illegal Aliens taking millions of jobs that should be American jobs and 100,s billions of dollars in social services that should be for American citizens!

One cannot be political correct and admit that Illegal Aliens are an large part of the problems in this Nation.

Their negative impact extends to every area from Sub-par loans & defaults, Underground economy, Massive document fraud, Lower standard of living, Crime, Overflowing prisons , Bankrupted hospitals, Failing schools, Property Taxes, Insurance costs, Environment, Culture, Welfare costs, Welfare fraud, SS fraud, Voter fraud, Disrespect for our laws & country, our Constitution against invasion and even Balance of payments occurring from oil and other imports to support the 20 to 30 million illegal aliens in this country!

One has to only look at Calif. which is basically mostly an Spanish speaking, Bankrupt state that cannot afford to provide Welfare, Schooling, Medical, Prison cells etc. for millions of MS-13 Gang bangers, Drug dealers, Rapist and other assorted Criminals and uneducated, Prolific breeding, third world rejects from Mexico!

In a very few years it will be impossible to see where Mexico ends and Calif. begins as both will be an third world cesspool!

Failure to secure our borders and reward the Invading horde for their invasion and their relatives in an never ending chain with American Citizenship is nothing less than committing National Suicide & will assure our future is an over populated Spanish speaking third world Nation that is an Cesspool of Corruption, Crime, Poverty and Misery modeled on Mexico!

Posted by: american1 | November 19, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

First of all, I need the definition of "erroneous mistakes." Is there an opposite?

But seriously, this looks like piling on. Everyone with a brain who is not pulsing Obama juice through their veins knew at the beginning a) there was no way to track "jobs saved" b) the porkulus bill was simply a big payoff to a number of liberal groups who have not had their share of government porridge under Bush, and really didn't include any comprehensive job creating measures c) politicians were going to dissemble (more bluntly: lie) about the wonderfulness of the "recovery act," and d) the liberals hoped that the recovery from the recession would follow normal business cycles, and employment would not be a big issue for them.

With regard to d), the unemployment is MUCH worse than all the White House geniuses guessed, and really has yet to show any signs of abating. This has then turned a reluctant press to start examining what the porkulus bill really is doing. More and more now see it really is doing NOTHING.

Here's another problem. That overgrown sixth grader, Romer, said recently all the wonderful effects from the porkulus bill will be gone by the end of 2/Q 2010 (in FY terms, that is March 2010. Unemployment is likely to still be ABOVE 10%.

Obama likes to take credit for staving off financial disaster, but the credit belongs to Bernanke. Obama's policies --- including raising of taxes, and the imposition of new taxe through the health care bill (how do you think the states plan to pay for all the medicaid people added to the rolls?) are driving the country into banan republic status.

Americans, wake up and take back your country!

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | November 19, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

This whole "stimulus"thing is a joke from A-Z including your lack of digging into this story like a journaist should. I have never seen such a pack of lies. Shame!

Posted by: j751 | November 19, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Shocking! I am so suprised.

Posted by: affirmativeactionpresident | November 19, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

It is incredible to me that people can read the auditor's report and still claim that the government is lying about the data. The government is reporting information required by congress. The fact that the preliminary information is being released as it comes in is simply a function of attempting to be as transparent as possible. Of COURSE there are inaccuracies in the data. Its the nature of the beast.

The information will become more accurate as time passes simply because the missing reports will be submitted, and the obviously incorrect ones will be followed up on.

One point I do agree about however, is that this preliminary data is being used as evidence for progress by the administration. It probably IS progress, but the numbers are simply too shaky right now to provide any real substantial evidence of that. But the same is true for the other side. Just because the data is being reported in real time, with all of the errors inherent in that, is certainly not evidence of falsehood or deception. In my mind, its wonderful that the administration is attempting to be as open as possible. Its the first time in history that this has happened and its about time.

I might comment that all across the board, from preliminary climate data, to all other types of information, the administration should be applauded rather than spit at.

Posted by: reussere | November 19, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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