The Obama administration is wasting $18 million to fix a Web site whose original purpose was just that -- to stop wasteful spending, congressional Republicans say.
The much-touted Recovery.gov Web site was created shortly after President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus into law on Feb. 17.
The administration's decision to spend another $18 million to fix a Web site that's less than five months old touched off a strident response from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
"This is the most ridiculous thing I've heard," Boehner told reporters. "They took stimulus money to actually create this Web site. It doesn't work very well, and now they want $18 million more money to redo their Web site -- to track how this wasteful spending is being wasted.
"Now listen," Boehner continued, "this is another waste of money. This is what Americans just get infuriated about."
In a final aside, Boehner muttered, "At least the money didn't go to ACORN."
Sources say stimulus funds paid for the initial cost of building the Web site. It remains unclear how much it cost originally.
Late last week, the General Services Administration announced it would spend another $18 million to redesign that Web site.
Some $9.5 million will be paid through January 2010, and if all options in the contract are exercised through 2014, the work would ultimately be worth $17.9 million to Smartronix, the politically connected Maryland firm that won the contract.
Critics say the current Recovery.gov site is ineffective.
"Despite assurances from the Obama administration that stimulus spending would be fully transparent, the system for tracking stimulus spending is fractured, redundant, and disorganized," Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Gregory Korte recently reported.
Users can't use the site to determine how much stimulus money has been spent so far in a given region, Korte said.
The Recovery.gov Web site was heralded by the administration as an innovative, high-tech way to provide transparency. The president and others assured voters it would ensure mountains of stimulus cash were spent wisely.
Recovery.gov seemed star-crossed almost from the beginning, however.
During his address to Congress earlier this year, President Obama spoke about the importance of protecting the credibility of the stimulus plan by tracking spending.
"And that's why I've asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with Joe," Obama said.
That line that drew peals of laughter and a standing ovation. But the next day, Biden was unaware of the Web site's address during an appearance on CBS's The Early Show.
"You know, I'm embarrassed," Biden said, when asked to provide the Web site address. "I should have it in front of me and I don't. I'm actually embarrassed."
A moment later an aide prompted Biden with the information, which he provided.
Hearing the objectives for the site, following its $18 million overhaul, may give voters a sense of déjà vu.
GSA Commissioner James A. Williams says the site will "use innovative and interactive technologies to help taxpayers see where their dollars are being spent."
He added, "Armed with easy access to this information, taxpayers can make government more accountable for its decisions."
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