A day of reckoning is quickly approaching for state and local governments that have received money from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - the stimulus package that some lawmakers and economists hope will help sweeten the nation's sour economy.
Budget officials are bracing for Oct. 10, the first quarterly deadline mandated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for stimulus fund recipients to upload detailed financial data to a new Web site called FederalReporting.gov.
Video: State and local CIOs describe the challenges of reporting on stimulus spending.
For the sake of transparency and accountability, President Barack Obama's administration and the OMB instituted what they say are the most stringent reporting requirements of any government grant-making process in history. Agencies will be required by the OMB to upload expenditure data - via an Excel spreadsheet or Extensible Markup Language (XML) - pertaining to subrecipients, subgrantees and subcontracts. Grants administrators say that extra level of detail will make accounting more complex.
Those requirements will put the onus on state and local governments to deliver an unprecedented amount of financial record keeping and reporting, and some agencies' computer systems likely are ill prepared to cope. Governments find themselves with a choice: purchase software that's built specifically for the stimulus, or forge ahead with enterprise software they already own.
"These dollars are going to be watched closer than any federal dollar that has ever come out of the Treasury," said Dave Quam, the director of federal relations for the National Governors Association. "We're talking Congress, reporters, states, locals - everyone is going to be watching this money. You might be able to know exactly where your tax dollar went at the end of the day. That's pretty remarkable considering where we are right now."
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