More than 50,000 jobs, or one out of every 10 jobs the White House says were "saved or created" by their economic stimulus plan, came from projects that reported spending no money yet, according to a government report obtained by ABC News.
The report by the Government Accountability Office analyzes the administration's October 2009 report on jobs saved or created by the $787 billion stimulus program and finds a "range of significant reporting and processing problems that need to be addressed."
Even with the errors, GAO gives the Obama administration high marks for its efforts at transparency and in making so much information public in such a short period of time.
"Given the national scale of the recipient reporting exercise and the limited time frames in which it was implemented," the report says, "[recovery.gov] represents a solid first step in moving toward more transparency and accountability for federal funds."
It's a point echoed by Vice President Joe Biden's spokesman, Jay Carney.
"Never before in history has a federal government program been this transparent and accountable," Carney told ABC News. "Never. Not even close."
The GAO report comes on the heels of weeks of reports, including some by ABC News, that question the validity of the job creation numbers the administration's economic recovery board says were generated by the stimulus plan.
- The new GAO report finds that 58,386 of the more than 640,000 "saved or created" jobs listed on recovery.gov are from stimulus projects where no money has yet been spent.
- On the flip side, the report finds nearly 10,000 projects that report spending a total of $965 million without creating any jobs at all.
The report also raises questions about how closely the contracts are being monitored. Twenty-five percent of the more than 130,000 primary contracts listed were not marked as having been reviewed by any government agency, and less than 1 percent of subcontracts were reviewed.
While the administration's Web site, recovery.gov, provides detailed information on more than 130,000 stimulus contracts, representing 90 percent of all contracts, the GAO report says "questions remain about the other 10 percent."
On Thursday, the GAO's Gene Dodaro will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
"Neither the recipients nor analysts can identify with certainty the impact of the Recovery Act because of the inability to compare the observed outcome with the unobserved, counterfactual scenario in which the stimulus does not take place," Dodaro says in draft testimony prepared for the hearing that was obtained Wednesday by ABC News.
In his prepared testimony, Dodaro notes problems such as "different interpretations" of the administration's guidance for what constitutes a job saved or created by stimulus funds. These problems, he says, were "one of the most significant problems" they found. Therefore, the GAO states that the Office of Management and Budget should "clarify the definition" and "consider being more explicit that "jobs saved or retained" are to be reported as hours worked and paid for with Recovery Act funds."
In response to the watchdog's findings, OMB has "generally agreed to implement" the recommendations, Dodaro says, noting that OMB has also "undertaken a lessons learned process for the first round of recipient reporting." No OMB officials will testify at Thursday's hearing, despite calls from the House panel's ranking member, Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that they do so.