Transparency & Accountability

"Transparency and rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."
President Barack Obama

Obama

 

From his first day in office, President Obama has made clear his commitment to promoting integrity and transparency in public service. The new Administration has acknowledged their particular importance in the efforts to address the nation’s ailing economy, calling for comprehensive transparency and accountability practices.

  • President Obama sent a strong signal when he made government ethics and transparency the first order of business, issuing Executive Orders on his first day in office to expand freedom of information, reduce conflicts of interests in the executive Branch and broaden access to presidential documents.
  • To address the public’s crisis of trust in the government’s handling of the financial bailout plan or “Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)”, the Treasury Department announced new public disclosure measures, including a policy of posting all new investment contracts related to the TARP to a new TARP website so that citizens can see how tax dollars are being spent.
  • Transparency and accountability also feature prominently in the stimulus bill or “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)”, including a public website and a White House-level oversight board.


TI-USA advocated for such measures, provided recommendations to strengthen them and will continue to monitor their implementation. At a time when the US has suffered from numerous corruption scandals in the public and private sectors, vigorous and credible action is essential to restore the American public’s trust and the credibility of the US in seeking global adoption of transparency and accountability practices.

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Obama’s Executive Orders

TARP

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus)

G20

Obama’s Executive Orders

In his first days in office, President Obama issued Executive Orders restoring the presumption of disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); limiting the “revolving door” between government service and lobbying; and ensuring public access to Presidential documents. TI-USA welcomed these steps to implement campaign committments.


TI-USA Monitor of Obama’s Campaign Commitments on Transparency & Accountability

TI-USA Press Release on Obama’s Executive Orders

Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda:


FOIA
Revolving Door
Public Access to Presidential Documents
Transparency and Open Government

Others


TARP

The Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) gives jurisdiction to the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase troubled assets, purchase/insure securities and mortgages, and to purchase other assets from financial institutions in order to restore liquidity and stability to the financial market.


Proper, transparent use of TARP funds is essential to restore stability and rebuild public trust in the U.S. financial system.


Recognizing this, in late January, after confirmation of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the Department of the Treasury announced a policy of posting all new investment contracts related to the TARP to a new TARP-related website within five to 10 business days so that citizens can see how tax dollars are being spent.  For contracts already completed, documents will be posted on a rolling basis.  Additional reforms have been promised, although action has been slow.  In addition, numerous reports, including those issued by the General Accounting Office, TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, and the Treasury’s Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP) have noted the urgent need for greater transparency and accountability in:

  • The influence of lobbies on the TARP,
  • The plan for spending funds under the TARP,
  • The decision-making process for TARP fund allocation, and
  • Recipient reports on fund use.


TI-USA has called for Secretary Geithner to address these concerns and monitoring progress going forward.


TI-USA letter to Treasury on the TARP

TI-USA letter to Senator Baucus on Secretary Geithner’s Confirmation Hearing



American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus)

Join our Campaign: “Show Me the Money”

 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the Stimulus) aims to stabilize the U.S. economy by providing tax relief and making supplemental appropriations for America’s roads and bridges, schools, health care, and local governments.  However, the rapid spending mandate under the Stimulus exponentially heightens the risk of waste and malfeasance to public funds, thus threatening the very purpose of the stimulus effort.


President Obama has made transparency and accountability a centerpiece of the Stimulus effort by introducing:

  • A centralized website that will track how, when, and where stimulus funds are spent, (Sec. 1526)
  • Requirements for chief executives overseeing high-risk infrastructure funds to certify their proper use, (ARRA Sec. 1511)
  • Regular reporting by government agencies and government oversight bodies on the use of funds, (ARRA Sec. 1512 - 1515)
  • A Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to coordinate and conduct oversight at the White House level, (Sec. 1521 – 1530)
  • A Recovery Independent Advisory Panel composed of non-governmental experts to advise the Board on prevention of fraud, waste and abuse of stimulus funds, (Sec 1541 – 1546)
  • Protections for state and local government and contractor whistleblowers, (Sec. 1553) and
  • Special attention to the manner in which contracts under the Stimulus are awarded.   (Sec. 1554)

TI-USA issued recommendations to the Senate as the Stimulus Bill was being drafted, seeking to strengthen the controls introduced in the Bill, and it continues to monitor the Bill’s transparency and accountability provisions.


Recovery.gov
Earl Devaney picked to Head RAT Board

TI-USA submits recommendations on Stimulus Bill control framework
TI-USA Board Member Warns of Weakness in Stimulus Plan
TI-USA Chair Calls for Public Engagement to Promote Accountability

G20

The Group of 20 (G-20), a forum of industrial and emerging-market countries, has a crucial role in addressing the international financial crisis and restoring stability to the global financial markets.  The Group met in April 2009 and November 2008 to address the global financial crisis and released commitments to short and medium term actions that must be taken to address the crisis.

Prior to the April 2009 Meeting, TI-USA President Nancy Boswell met with Michael Froman, the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, to emphasize the need for the G20 and G8 to focus on anti-corruption by enforcing foreign bribery prohibitions and increasing corruption risk management in export credit and development assistance.  TI-USA Letter to U.S. “Sherpa” on G20 on financial crisis.

The G20 April Statement did not address corruption risk, however. In response, TI-USA Board Member Ben Heineman issued an article criticizing the G20, and TI-USA is hosting an event calling on the IMF and World Bank to explain how they will exercise their own fiduciary controls to ensure this large inflow of fast-moving funds are used for the purposes intended.

In a Resolution issued during its November 2008 Annual Meetings, calling the crisis “a failure by public authorities to ensure the integrity and stability of the system and the safety and soundness of banking,” Transparency International called on the G-20 to “ensure that transparency, integrity and public accountability become the foundation of the vital reforms needed to rebuild the world’s financial system.”   TI outlined seven priority areas for immediate action, and continues to press for these.