Friday, July 10, 2009

Government Stimulus Website to Cost Taxpayers $18M USD

You can say one thing for the federal government, they are willing to spend top dollar for the items that they want. The question will be, 'should they be spending that much money for what they are receiving?'

With the fed spending just a shade over $797 billion in U.S. taxpayer money on the last stimulus package in an effort to kick start the economy and reduce unemployment, there are more than a few taxpayers who are leery about exactly how all that money will be spent. President Obama launched the website in an attempt to alleviate those fears. There were initial complaints about usability and accessibility regarding the website, so the federal government decided to spend some money to upgrade the site.

This was seemingly a good idea that all would welcome, until the General Services Administration quietly released an announcement that the site would cost a total of $18 million USD over a 5 year period. An estimated $9.5 million of that will go to site design alone!

While I am sure most tax payers would be upset at those figures alone, people in the tech sector who handle site building projects (both large and small) are scratching their collective heads at these figures and wondering exactly 'why?' it will cost this much.

According to the report over at

"Craig Jennings of OMB Watch, a watchdog group often critical of government spending, states, "I do think $9.5 million is a bit much. They already have a large data set to work with. What will do -- and whether they need $9.5 million to do this, I don't know -- is display it."

The site currently offers information on the $60.4B USD of stimulus money award by July 3. Many complain that the information is hard to read and understand with it being unclear where exactly the money is going in the case of a specific stimulus award.

Edward Pound, spokesman for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the government group running the site insists the site is taxpayer money well spent. He states, "This thing has a lot more to do than designing a good-looking Web site. We're not here to waste the taxpayers' money."

He says that his organization will demand reports from every group receiving stimulus money, telling how they spent it. He states, "We have to have the capability to receive that information and post it. And we need the infrastructure to support all of that. They are going to be filing very detailed information -- who the key officers are on every project, what they're paid, and so forth. And you'll have to be able to see that, very quickly."

The site when first launched was relatively popular, receiving 150 million hits in its first month according to market research firm Alexa. Since then, traffic has lulled and the site currently sits at 36,572nd in Alexa's traffic rankings.

Andrew MacRae, a website developer comments, "It's not a bad website. But it's not a tool to tell me where the money is being used."

Mr. Jennings says his organization has already made a better site at a fraction of the cost. He states, "OMB Watch built a site called, which does basically the same thing. We said we'll license it for $600,000."

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