Vice President Joe Biden on Monday announced the launch of a "Campaign to Cut Government Waste," creating an oversight board modeled on the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which used a central website to track federal stimulus money.
Former Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney, who has been chairing the Recovery Board, will head the new board.
Speaking at a press conference in the Executive Office Building, Biden said, "The American people have lost confidence over the years in the ability of government to deliver" on spending money with minimal fraud and abuse. "The fundamental rationale for this campaign is to regain that public trust." Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, who joined Biden at the press conference, said that this means requiring every agency to focus on "transparency and accountability" by putting the spending on websites to involve the public and create "hundreds of thousands of inspectors general."
Also on Monday, the White House released details on the campaign to "hunt down and eliminate misspent funds" in the form of an executive order titled "Delivering an Efficient, Effective and Accountable Government."
Building on what Biden called the "success story" of the Recovery Act's "unprecedented transparency to drive accountability and prevent fraud," the order signed on Monday by President Obama creates the 11-member Oversight and Accountability Board and assigns it to "replicate" the Recovery Board's work across government, using existing government employees. Helping Devaney will be agency inspectors general, chief financial officers or deputy secretaries, an official from the Office of Management and Budget, and other members the president may name.
The order commits each Cabinet member to track progress and report monthly during meetings with the vice president. It also requires chief operating and financial officers to report progress regularly to OMB.
In addition, the initiative will target duplicative federal websites, calling for an immediate halt to the creation of new sites and working with agencies to shut down 25 percent of some 2,000 sites over the next few months.
"We're going to hit every corner and track every dollar," Biden said, while "institutionalizing" the anti-waste campaign as "part of a new culture."
Republicans on Capitol Hill may be on roughly the same page. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who introduced legislation to create a similar oversight board just hours before Biden's announcement, issued the following statement: "The American people have a right to know how their money is being spent. There is common ground and bipartisan support for legislation to increase transparency and openness in all federal spending because the problem we face is not a partisan one, it is a bureaucratic one," he said. "The bureaucracy is resistant to change."
Issa said he looks forward to working with the Obama administration to curb waste and improve transparency.
Federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients, in a conference call with reporters, said he had not had time to study the Issa bill. But he said, "The train that left the station two years ago with the president and the vice president driving it, which led to an unprecedented low level of fraud in spending under the Recovery Act, is headed, lots of people feel, in a good direction. We look forward to working with Issa and others in both houses of Congress to take the best practices from this earlier effort."
Although many Republicans argue that the 2009 stimulus package failed because the unemployment rate remains high, Lew praised it as a model for making the entire government more transparent and accountable. "When President Obama came in 2009, our two goals were stopping the economy's free fall and changing how Washington does business, to make it more transparent and accountable," Lew said. That's why the president appointed Biden, who calls himself the new "sheriff" in the battle against waste, "because he has experience as a guardian of taxpayer's needs."
Lew and Biden detailed administration progress in reducing no-bid contracts, cutting improper payments, and disposing of unneeded real estate. The same day that the Campaign to Cut Government Waste was launched, the White House issued a new summary of the Accountable Government Initiative led over the past two years by Lew and Zients. It talks of cutting federal contracting for the first time in 13 years, identifying $3 billion in information technology savings, and shutting down duplicative data centers.
Joseph Marks contributed. contributed to this article.