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70% of US Federal Spending Reports Inaccurate

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Every administration since our government's inception has prided itself on holding up under scrutiny. Concepts like openness, honesty, and transparency were bandied about during campaign speeches and Presidential Addresses. And in this modern era, public online records of government spending -- most notably -- were launched to give Americans purportedly clear-cut data as to how their tax dollars were being allocated.

And lo and behold, that data is wholly inaccurate.

According to the Sunlight Foundation, which focuses on government accountability, no less than 70% of all records on is flawed -- either by inaccurate information, incomplete data, or late reporting -- and accounts for $1.3 trillion of broken or misrepresented spending on grants. In response to the glut of incorrect data, the organization launched Clearspending to shine a light on all the erroneous numbers. Among the highlights:

  • In 2009, 66.5% of the recorded obligations reported through the USASpending data submission system were more than 45 days after the obligation was made, with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education being the worst offenders.
  • In 2008, 325 programs did not report any spending to The total amount of the (non-reported) spending was $583 billion, or 22%, of the total grant spending for 2008. For loans, the total not reported was $772 billion out of $872 billion in outstanding loans.
  • In 2009, $161 billion in grant obligations was underreported -- up from $125 billion in 2007.
  • In 2007, $941 billion in obligations were incompletely reported. In 2009, this number had increased to $1.68 trillion –- a 30% increase.

It's unlikely that these "errors" -- whether intentional or accidental -- will ever get corrected. But hopefully Clearspending does its part in reducing the main factor behind the government's creative bookkeeping.

The willful ignorance of the public.

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