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To Make Government More Transparent, 'Embarrass' Federal Agencies

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By William G. Korver, Reporter,

WASHINGTON, July 31 – Part of the job of Congress is to “embarrass” federal agencies whose projects are often late and over budget, the chairman of a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee said Thursday.

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., the chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, went so far as to say that some federal agencies need “a swift kick in the pants.”

Carper was the only senator to attend the hearing.

But Karen Evans, administrator of the Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology in the Office of Management and Budget, disagreed.

The OMB’s role is not one of “an auditor,” and does not act out of a desire to “embarrass or shame” any particular agency, said Evans. The OMB has less than forthcoming about some agency mishaps because the OMB has not had all available data.

David Powner, the director of information technology management issues for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said that the Bush administration had proven itself to be “reluctant to highlight [the] shortfalls” encountered by various agencies. He said that the government need to promote greater transparency by federal agencies.

The hearing came against the backdrop of reports indicating that $57 billion in federal information technology (IT) spending was in danger of failing. That sum represents 81 percent of the total federal IT budget.

Thomas Jarrett, the secretary and chief information officer for Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information, also said that Congress should not be concerned about “shaming” federal agencies as much good may come from the less than comfortable situation.

Norm Brown, executive director of the Center For Program Transformation, said that increased visibility on inadequate government performance was necessary.

A “train wreck” would be the result if transparency is not made a more pressing goal in the country, Brown warned.

However, Alfred Grasso, CEO of the Mitre Corporation, cautioned that some of the low scores could be because the lower-scoring agencies work may be on the level of Advanced Placement classes, while the agencies with higher marks are involved in standard-level activities.

Brown was supportive of Carper’s idea of creating an “IT strike team” to partner with OMB.

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