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GAO: clearer guidance needed for reporting stimulus funds

By Ed O'Keefe

A government audit set for release Thursday urges the Obama administration to provide further guidance on how recipients of economic stimulus dollars should report jobs created with the funding.

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.

The Government Accountability Office found that almost 4,000 designated recipients who have not yet received stimulus funding reported creating or saving more than 58,000 jobs. Another 9,200 recipients reported no job creation, despite receiving a total of $965 million. 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. Other recipients that already spent money are reporting zero jobs created or saved because they are applying a narrow definition for what counts as a "saved" job or because they may not be taking into account the jobs created by a subcontractor receiving funds from the recipient.

Auditors will present their findings at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing at which members of both parties are expected to grill administration officials about errors submitted by recipients in their quarterly reports. Government officials on Wednesday corrected or removed several incorrect Zip codes or congressional districts from the reports posted on, the government's stimulus-tracking Web site.

The GAO audit also found that the government has failed to review about 25 percent of the quarterly reports submitted by stimulus recipients. Vice President Biden said earlier this week that the administration has yet to review every report. "The jobs actually exist," despite concerns about the validity of stimulus data, Biden said Tuesday on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Biden noted that there have been no reports of widespread misuse of stimulus funding, but the GAO is pursuing at least eight allegations of waste or abuse of stimulus funds from more than 100 reported. The audit agency has referred at least 33 other allegations to federal inspectors general, according to the report.

Staff writer Alec MacGillis contributed to this report.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 18, 2009; 7:35 PM ET
Categories:  Tracking the Stimulus  
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