Is Obama justified in turning up heat on contractors?

Editor Nick Wakeman discusses President Barack Obama’s latest push to make sure contractors disclose Recovery Act work.

Some contractors are sure to lament President Barack Obama’s latest memo requiring that agencies increase the pressure on contractors that do not fully comply with reporting requirements under the Recovery Act.

The law states that companies that win contracts funded by the stimulus law are required to report certain information, including the value of the work, jobs created, and status of the project. 

From my look at the Recovery Act reports for the last quarter of 2009, there are a lot of blank fields, particularly the fields asking for the names and salaries of the top five officers of the company. The vast majority of these fields are blank. Of the 20,331 reports in the spreadsheet, only 1,758 include this information.

I think there are legitimate arguments to be made about the value of this information. Does it really matter what the salary is of a chief executive officer at a government contractor?

But the fact of the matter is that reporting that information is a requirement for getting Recovery Act work.

Rule one of keeping negative attention away from your company is to follow the rules, unless you’re withholding the information as some sort of civil disobedience, which I don’t see happening here.

Doing slightly better is the field for total recovery money received. Here 8,171 of the reports have numbers attached, but that is still less than half. I’m sure there are projects where there is a mixture of funding sources so it might be difficult to break the stimulus money out, but can that really be the case with more than half of the reports? I’m also a little perplexed by the company that reported it has received 24 cents in stimulus money.

I’m sure there are nuances to this that I don’t grasp, but we are six months or more into this era of reporting, and the expectation is that these requirements will expand to all contracts.

So the move by the administration to increase the pressure on contractors to report should come as no surprise. The ball is back industry’s court to comply, explain why not or face the consequences.