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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Watchdog group previews federal spending search tool

A watchdog group previewed a federal spending search tool Tuesday, providing a glimpse into a new system designed to provide user-friendly public access to federal contract and grant information.

The search tool gathers federal contract data from the Federal Procurement Data System and information on federal assistance such as grants, direct payments and loans from the Federal Assistance Award Data System. It resembles a system required under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. That measure, which President Bush signed into law last week, drew bipartisan support fueled by the backing of an army of bloggers.

The system previewed Tuesday was developed by Washington, D.C.-based OMB Watch. It will be formally launched next Tuesday at www.FedSpending.org.

The system was developed over six months for less than $100,000, according to the group, and is intended to function as a benchmark for the newly mandated government system, as well as a public resource. The government system is slated to receive $9 million in its first two years and $2 million annually thereafter for maintenance, and is subject to requirements for how data must be presented that could make it harder to implement.

The FedSpending.org search tool provides separate tabs for queries on federal contracts and grants. In the contractor panel, users can choose among search options grouped into the broad categories of contractor, place of performance or contracting agency, with additional options for competition type and the item purchased. By clicking on the menu items, users can call up tables, generated in real time from the contracts database, of companies, states, districts or other data fields.

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