States Adjust to Handle Stimulus Pressures

Publication: Government Executive

Author: Robert Brodsky

05/15/2009 - State governments receiving federal Recovery Act funds are adjusting their operating procedures to balance the competing goals of creating jobs quickly while ensuring the money is spent wisely, management officials said on Thursday during an online conference.

In Ohio, for example, procurement officials are streamlining their competitive bidding practices to accelerate contract awards. But as a precaution against potential waste and mismanagement, officials also are incorporating a host of internal controls, such as risk assessments, for stimulus projects.
"States must follow a disciplined process, but in an expedited way," said W. Frederick Thompson, a senior adviser for the Pew Center on the States during a webinar hosted by Pew and the Government Innovators Network at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "They also must make sure they are not shortcutting the process."

According to the Government Accountability Office, more than half the funds in the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be dispersed by state and local governments.

A recent analysis by the Project on Government Oversight found that every state but Louisiana now has a separate Web site dedicated to tracking stimulus projects. But besides bare-bones transparency, state governments -- many depleted by budget cuts -- have a limited capacity to manage, track, report and provide adequate oversight of Recovery Act funds, observers said.

Neal Johnson, director of Pew's Government Performance Project, said state governments are not structured to spend funds as quickly as the Obama administration has proposed. But, with detailed federal requirements on how the money must be spent, state officials are making adjustments on the fly.

"None of us can afford to squander this opportunity," he said. "This is an incredibly high level of spending and transparency, and we are just trying to figure out what it all means."

To read the rest of, "States Adjust to Handle Stimulus Pressures," see the Goverment Executive Web Site.

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