The Obama administration promises it will be accountable in how it spends our (children’s) money in the new stimulus legislation. On the Recovery.Gov site you’ll see, under the heading “Accountability and Transparency,” some strong rhetoric:
This is your money. You have a right to know where it’s going and how it’s being spent.
So far so good, and the bill allocates some $84 million for a Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board, the task of which is to follow the money.
That notion — follow the money — is what much of the best journalism has been all about in recent decades. News organizations and freelancers have uncovered all kinds of malfeasance and nonfeasance by watching how money got spent.
Recovery.gov aims, in part, to show where every dollar is going from the stimulus appropriation. In theory, this will enable an army of average folks to look into the data and flag inappropriate (and good) uses of the money.
But that $84 million will pay some professionals who know how to investigate, and they’re going to be a first line of defense in ensuring that the fraud and abuse — guaranteed to occur no matter how well-meaning the management of this enormous pot of money — will be caught.
The inspector general and his team would be smart to reaize that they could be hiring some unemployed (or under-employed or soon-to-be unemployed) people who have some of the skills we need in those positions. I’m talking about journalists, many of whom have been serving as watchdogs for a long time.
They’ll need some updated training. But a lot of them have the temperment we need for this task. Most vital: They are relentless diggers.
We need their skills in lots of ways. This could be one. The journalism business may be imploding, but these journalists still have a great deal to offer.