Stimulus Jobs Reported in Nonexistent Montana Districts
Thirteen Congressional Districts Report Receiving Stimulus Funds—But Montana Has Only One
BY MICHAEL NOYES
The government-funded website that tracks stimulus spending is reporting jobs created and dollars received in congressional districts that don't exist.
According to recovery.gov, thirteen different congressional districts in Montana reported receiving stimulus funds as of September 30. Montana, though, has only one federal congressional district.
The majority of state spending and jobs listed on the site are in the congressional district marked "00." A spokesman from Congressman Denny Rehberg's (R) office said that is an accounting tool used to mark at-large districts.
However, jobs created or stimulus dollars spent were also reported in twelve other Montana districts, including the second, fifth, twelfth, and sixteenth.
Ed Pound, director of communi-cations for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board which oversees the site, said his organization is accurately reporting the information that recipients provide. He said in some cases it appears recipients are entering the wrong congressional districts in their reports.
"People make errors, and we've found people are making errors in these reports," Pound said.
Visitors to the website are also able to track the dollars by project, he said.
Pound said he has received three phone calls about jobs listed in congressional districts that do not exist, including a call a couple of weeks earlier from Wyoming.
On Monday, media reports from a number of states including New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Kansas also claimed to have discovered stimulus dollars and jobs reported for districts that do not exist.
Pound said he plans to make the chairman of the recovery board aware of the calls he has received. However, he said there are no plans to change the information on the website at this time. Pound said the reports will be updated and have a chance to be corrected during the next reporting phase in January. Reports from recipients are due in early January and will be posted at the end of the month.
Recipients file their reports on a password-protected site. That information is then relayed to officials who oversee the recovery.gov website to post, Pound said. Unless an egregious error is noted, Pound said they post the information exactly as it is received.
"Our job is data integrity, not data quality," he said.
Federal agencies that oversee administration of the grants could request recipients correct the congressional district information during the next reporting phase, according to Pound.
The recovery.gov site was set up in February 2009 with a budget of $84 million to operate for two-and-a-half years, according to Pound. The independent organization's mission statement reads, in part, "To promote accountability by coordin-ating and conducting oversight of Recovery funds to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse and to foster transparency on Recovery spending by providing the public with accurate, user-friendly information..."
Mike Noyes is an investigative reporter with the Bozeman-based Montana Policy Institute.
Note: Federal stimulus jobs were reported in nonexistent districts not only in Montana but in at least ten other states, adding to the impression that the effects of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus have been misrepresented. In Talladega County, Alabama, for example, a recipient of stimulus money claimed having saved or created 5,000 jobs with $42,000 of federal funds, an average of just $8.40 per job.