Stimulus mistakes will be corrected faster
Updated 3:40 p.m. ET
After weeks of what one official described as "no end of headaches and confusion," the Obama administration announced Tuesday that recipients of economic stimulus funds will be able to correct mistakes on their quarterly reports at any time.
The decision may help put an end to press reports and Republican criticism that lambasted the Obama administration for misleading Americans about the economic recovery program, comments that in turn created more confusion about the entire stimulus process.
Previous guidelines stated that stimulus recipients could only correct mistakes on their reports during a 20-day correction period after submitting information to FederalReporting.gov, the government Web site that feeds information to Recovery.gov, the government's stimulus-tracking site. Under new guidelines that begin in January with the next round of quarterly reports, agencies will be able to review recipient reports and request corrections on an ongoing basis. Any new corrections will be published on Recovery.gov every two weeks starting Feb. 10.
Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board Chairman Earl Devaney wrote on his blog Tuesday that the first round of quarterly reports posted in October included "plenty" of mistakes.
"Call it the downside of transparency," Devaney wrote. "We expected problems, and have been developing technical and content changes to help improve the quality of recipient data and streamline the reporting process for the January reporting period."
Devaney also said that FederalReporting.gov will add technological checks that will prohibit recipients from submitting Zip codes and Congressional districts that don't match. News outlets reported last month that dozens of recipients incorrectly reported their Congressional districts, suggesting the money had not been spent at all.
In response to the press reports, Vice President Biden blamed bad civics lessons for the mistakes.
"This mistake caused us no end of headaches and confusion in the news media, as some reporters mistakenly believed that money had disappeared into 'phantom' districts," Devaney wrote on Tuesday.
In October the Obama administration said the stimulus had directly created or saved at least 640,000 jobs.
But Devaney and the Government Accountability Office raised doubts about the data last month, urging additional scrutiny. Almost 4,000 designated recipients who have not yet received stimulus funding reported creating or saving more than 58,000 jobs, GAO said. Another 9,200 recipients reported no job creation, despite receiving a total of $965 million.
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