Designed by the Obamacare website developers and the IRS.
A redesign of a transparency website that provides information on federal spending by the Obama administration now makes it much more difficult to see how taxpayer dollars are spent.
Usaspending.gov, a website mandated by law to provide detailed information on every federal contract over $3,000, received a makeover on Tuesday. Users can no longer search federal spending by keywords, sort contracts by date, or easily find detailed information on awards, which are delivered in bulk.
Information, such as how much the Pentagon spends on Viagra, used to be available at the click of a button. Locating those same contracts on the new website is virtually impossible, akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
In its previous form, the website provided easy access to how taxpayer dollars are spent, as it happens. A user now must have the federal grant identification number to see details of a contract.
In another aspect of the overhaul, the online address of each of the website’s individual pages now begins with the word “transparency.”
The new version of Usaspending.gov provides a “spending map” to search by zip code, and “agency profiles,” which only provide totals of funding, sub-awards, and transactions. The results list the highest dollar amounts by company, but provide no links to specific contracts.
The list of agencies does not include smaller government bodies such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), but does include the “Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.” Results for the profile of “Other Small Agencies” returns zero grants or contracts, with the reply “no data found.”
The public can search by recipient, though those results are also limited. A user must click on every contract to find a short description of what the spending involves.[…]
An advanced search allows a user to see all of an agency’s spending, separated by contract type, though the results are only available alphabetically. A user cannot sort the data by date, making it impossible to see agency spending day to day. One can download the results to sort by date in a spreadsheet, but they include no description of what the contracts are for.
Downloading data on spending by the State Department nearly crashed this reporter’s computer.
Search results are also not indexed on Google, making the website’s search engine the only avenue for citizens and reporters to find information within the site. Microsoft Sharepoint operates the new website’s search, and the results are limited.[…]
The website was not perfect prior to its reboot. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that Usaspending.gov was missing billions of dollars in federal awards, and the vast majority of federal contracts included errors.
The federal government had purchased the website back from the contractor running Usaspending.gov, Global Computer Enterprises, Inc. last October. GCE, which had operated the website since 2003, declared bankruptcy last year.
The website was previously overseen by the Office of Management and Budget, before the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service took it over in January.
The bureau was tasked with “making improvements to the site’s usability, presentation, and search functionalities” for its re-launch, which went live on Tuesday.
Requests for comment from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service’s office of public affairs were not returned.
“This is the most transparent administration in history,” President Barack Obama declared in February 2013, arguing that information on laws and regulations were “put online for everyone to see.”