Leading members of Congress from both parties are promising increased scrutiny of the Obama administration's data on job creation, amid widespread errors in official stimulus data reported by the federal government.
A raft of reports of questionable or downright faulty jobs numbers -- including many uncovered by ABC News that show dozens of jobs created and millions of dollars spent in congressional districts that don't exist -- has cast a harsh spotlight on the jobs claims connected to the $787 billion stimulus package.
The Obama administration stands by its claim that the stimulus "saved or created" 1 million jobs. But the reporting process has involved errors: The administration chose not to include some 60,000 jobs reported by recipients as products of stimulus spending, citing "unrealistic data."
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board says the errors are the result of mistaken information submitted to the federal government, and are not evidence of fraud or lax oversight.
But the questions swirling over the official job claims threaten to undercut the administration's credibility on a key priority -- at the very time that Democrats start to shape a new jobs bill, with the nation facing double-digit unemployment.
House Appropriations Chairman David Obey is calling the inaccuracies on Recovery.gov, the $18 million Web site that's tracking stimulus spending, "outrageous," and called on the Obama administration to immediately fix problems that have come to light.
"The administration owes itself, the Congress, and every American a commitment to work night and day to correct the ludicrous mistakes," said Obey, D-Wis. "Credibility counts in government and stupid mistakes like this undermine it. We've got too many serious problems in this country to let that happen."
On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a hearing on stimulus spending and "recipient reporting." Panel members from both parties are promising tough questions for Earl Devaney, the recovery board's chairman.
Rep. Darrell Issa, the committee's ranking Republican, sent a letter to Devaney asking the administration to add "qualifying information" -- such as an asterisk or a footnote -- if it's not willing to certify as accurate the data that's publicly accessible at Recovery.gov.
"Are you able to certify personally that the number of jobs reported as 'created/saved' on www.recovery.gov is accurate and auditable?" Issa, R-Calif., asks Devaney.
A spokesman for the board, Ed Pound, said the mistakes stem from human error. Regarding the data purporting to create jobs in congressional districts that don't exist, he said, "Some recipients clearly don't know what congressional district they live in.
"We report what the recipients submit to us," Pound told ABC News. "We expected all along that recipients would make mistakes on their congressional districts, on jobs numbers, on award amounts, and so on. Human beings make mistakes."
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden promised unprecedented transparency around the stimulus spending. Key to those efforts was an $18 million contract awarded over the summer to redesign Recovery.gov, the main portal for distributing stimulus information.