Research University Groups Balk at Bill Aimed at Tracking Federal Spending

June 22, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Congress's watchdog-in-chief wants to drastically expand the amount of information made public about how the federal government spends its money -- and some research university leaders say the plan would impose a mammoth burden with little benefit to taxpayers. Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has proposed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which would essentially require a similar level of reporting for all federal grants, contracts and other spending to which the tens of billions of federal stimulus spending was subjected. Under the law, recipients of federal funds would have to report to a single database information about all the money they receive, and a new independent agency would be charged with ferreting out misspending.

With the legislation due to be considered by Issa's committee Wednesday, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council on Governmental Relations issued a statement arguing that the proposed measure, like the Recovery Act, would "impose substantial new costs on universities’ research enterprises, significantly reducing productivity with little benefit to the nation." The groups added: "The public rightfully demands that its tax dollars be spent usefully and wisely. Money is wasted, however, when researchers and administrators are forced to spend their time making needless calculations and filling out forms."

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