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Four term Republican congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Waite, of Florida's 5th district wants answers about inaccuracies found on recovery.gov. The site tracks jobs that have been saved or created by H.R.1 - American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 commonality referred to as the Stimulus Bill or the Recovery Act.
The congresswoman filed a complaint directly on the site entitled Report Fraud, Waste & Abuse. On the electronic complaint form, She related what she characterized as gross waste of nearly eighteen million dollars of taxpayer funds used to develop a the website that is providing erroneous and inaccurate information. Waite used an example of $3 million dollars spend that created five jobs in Florida's 86th district. The problem, she explained was that Florida only has only twenty-five districts.
After seeing such a blatant inaccuracy she wrote, “Americans deserve a full accounting of how the contract for this website was awarded, why it cost so much, and what in God’s name is going on with our trillion dollars?" She further related, "At a time when so many Americans are out of work and our nation’s debt has exploded, why the Administration would spend so much money on what now turns out to be propaganda is quite frankly appalling.”
On Tuesday, Brown-Waite watched the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. Stewart's guest was Vice President Joe Biden and the topic was about Biden's announcement on how many jobs had been saved or created by the Stimulus. The congresswoman had noted that the Vice President admitted that it is impossible to track the stimulus spending. Stewart responded by saying that the site stimulus.gov was providing some incorrect numbers. Biden didn't even correct Stewart's mistake as he didn't even know the websites name which is recovery.gov
Bidens statements shocked the Congresswoman. She considered his Jobs created or saved numbers as nothing more than White House propaganda. She decided to request a copy of the contract for recovery.gov. When she received a copy, it was almost totally redacted leaving very little useful information. Even the name of the contractor had been blacked out. Waite knew that a company called Smartronics got the contract to redesign the website based on a press release dated July 2009. She wanted answers and the White House seemed to be stonewalling her questions.
The congresswoman decided to bring issues about recovery.gov to the public. On Thursday, Congresswoman Brown-Waite appeared on the Fox News program, “On the Record”, with host Greta Van Susteren. While on the show, Congresswoman Brown-Waite shared that she received a redacted copy of the contract. She doesn't see any reason why she cannot get a clean copy of the contract as she sits on the Ways and Means committee in Congress. The problem “can't be national security, and it sure does not indicate that we have transparency.”
She further related to Van Susteren that the cost of the redesign process of recovery.gov was about $18 million. She related that the Office of Management and Budget said that the redesign could have been done internally for about $600 thousand dollars. She related that, "If OMB could've done it for $600 thousand dollars, why did we not use OMB?"
She then brought up the issue about $3 million dollars going to Florida's mythological 86th district that the site reported created five jobs. The way the data is to be coded on recovery.gov is that someone in the home district is file paperwork on the status of the funds being received and the amount of jobs the funds created. This is an impossibility as there is no one in a mythological district to report the funds and jobs saved or created.
Officials are reporting that these are coding errors but, if Florida only has 25 districts then the problem is multifaceted as the database at recovery.gov should have only the total number of districts in Florida as 25. No one knows where the 86th district is located. So based on this one error there is $3 million dollars missing and 5 people working in an unknown land.
The congresswoman related to Greta a bit about the process. " All local governments know what Congressional district they are in because when they fill out a grant application, they indicate such. So where did they get this information? I have no idea”. Brown-Waite ended the interview by saying, “it is a waste of money. That is what people want to know where the jobs are and when that the economy going to recover?
If you think the mythological Florida 86th district is a fluke, think again. In South Carolina, folks are sporting signs that reads like the lyrics of an eighties Sammy Hagar song. The signs read, “I can't find district 45” A popular blog, The Palmetto Scoop has an article on about Recovery.gov where editor Adam Fogle has a sign as he seeks for the missing district and where the money has gone. Republican operative Wesley Donehue also has an article on his blog for Republican geeks with a tongue in cheek look at Recovery.gov missing district. Last week the Columbia Republican Examiner looked at fuzzy math that showed that for every job created in South Carolina, it cost nearly $400 thousand dollars per job.
There are at least 10 other states with similar issues with Recovery.gov accounting and district mistakes: California, Colorado, New York, Georgia, Texas, and Florida are just some of the problem states that have been investigated thus far.
Interesting enough, as writers began pointing out the huge mistakes on recovery.gov, the site has been scurrying to make corrections. The question is, are the corrections even correct. Jobs saved or created look good on the website but in the words of Congresswoman Brown-Waite to the Vice-President, “where are the real jobs”. In South Carolina, folks continue to search for those jobs in District 45.
Just for fun, some politicians have announced to run in these open districts. The South Carolina Republican Party wants folks to print out the, "I can't find distinct 45" sign and photograph themselves searching for the missing district.