The government Web site created “to foster greater accountability and transparency” in federal stimulus spending has for years allowed anyone with an Internet connection to follow the money.
But by the end of the month, the ability to see what entities received contracts and grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going to vanish from recovery.gov, officials say, making it impossible to track where the more than $800 billion finally ended up.
It’s not because the Web site is going away — that won’t happen for at least another year. Instead, it’s because of a far more strange — and complicated — reason that, some say, exposes a larger problem that could have even greater implications for the billions the government spends .
The data will disappear from the site because the government board that oversees the Web site and ensures the stimulus money is spent properly is not renewing its license with Dun & Bradstreet, a major U.S. financial firm that assigns an identification number to all entities doing business with the federal government. When the license expires at the end of this month, those identification numbers — and other associated data — will no longer be available to the government.
No numbers, no way to track the money.