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Tulsa World Editorial: A watchful eye

Tulsa World Editorial: A watchful eye

by: World's Editorial Writers
Monday, March 02, 2009
3/2/2009 3:11:28 AM

We agree with the Oklahoma Policy Institute that an oversight board is a very good idea to ensure accountability in the spending of $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funds coming Oklahoma's way.

Whether the Oklahoma Economic Recovery Accountability and Oversight Board becomes a reality would be up to Gov. Brad Henry. Through spokesman Paul Sund, Henry has indicated that he would give the idea serious consideration. Already state and local officials have made efficient expenditure of the money a top priority.

We like the idea — who wouldn't — of transparency in the use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, which have implications for almost all Oklahoma agencies. Most Americans were troubled by a lack of oversight in last year's bailout of the financial sector. Congressional overseers still are trying to sort out how, or how well, Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds were spent. The funds were meant for purchase of assets and equity from financial institutions in order to strengthen the financial sector.

TARP proceeded "in a chaotic, unorganized and ad hoc manner," said Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii. Former federal prosecutor Neil M. Barofsky was nominated last fall as the chief watchdog of the $700 billion TARP bailout program. His nomination came amidst growing concern over lack of oversight of the program, which is supposed to be scrutinized by two new independent bodies: a special inspector general and a congressional oversight panel.

Transparency and accountability are key principles in the economic recovery legislation passed earlier this month. Funding recipients must submit quarterly reports providing detailed information on how contracts and grants are spent. The governor of Colorado already has announced an Economic Recovery Accountability Board and launched a Web site.

What we don't need in Oklahoma is an oversight board that would perform redundant bureaucratic functions or create needless hurdles and headaches. A board with a clear mission of what it should or should not do is a different matter and a good idea for overseeing stimulus money.

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