Commentary: Making a commitment to transparency

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.

As Americans continue to lose jobs, health benefits and confidence in the future, the Obama administration and Congress hope to spend much of the economic stimulus money as rapidly as possible. State and local governments, in turn, will be pressed to put the federal money to work quickly.

This is the right approach. But it will inevitably increase the waste and fraud that can be expected at all levels of government. The quicker money is spent, the more difficult it is to monitor and the greater the risks of abuses.

So watchdogs in both the public and the private sector must rapidly ramp up their plans to oversee the new spending – and let the public know what is happening.

President Barack Obama deserves praise for his commitment to transparency in the detailed reporting of stimulus spending on a new government Web site, recovery.gov. The federal Web site already offers a wealth of helpful information.

The importance of transparency and accountability is underscored by "Sunshine Week," an observation led by journalists that begins today. The week calls attention to the public's right to know what government is doing.

Obama has signaled an unprecedented level of official scrutiny over stimulus spending. And he demonstrated his commitment to this goal with his selection of Earl Devaney to head the Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board.

Devaney is a respected watchdog with a solid track record of defending the public interest in several previous posts. He led a crackdown on environmental crime at the Environmental Protection Agency, has blown the whistle on abuses with oil and gas contracts on public land, and played a central role in the investigation of wrongdoing at the Interior Department.

With Devaney in charge of stimulus oversight, with hundreds of millions of dollars at his disposal for this task, the public can expect to hear many reports of wrongdoing.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.

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