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Americans complain about boastful stimulus signs

Fully 40 percent of all complaints made to the Obama administration about the stimulus money spent under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act involve the signs posted around the nation touting how stimulus cash is “Putting America to Work” with infrastructure projects.

And although President Obama’s promise that ARRA spending would be subject to “unprecedented oversight,” the Obama administration is unable to provide Congress with a complete and reliable calculation of how much taxpayer money government agencies have spent posting the stimulus signs.

These are the key conclusions from an advance look the Washington office of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking Republican member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee, gave WND at correspondence exchanged since June between Issa and Earl E. Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.

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Issa sent a letter to Devaney, cosigned by fellow Republican Rep. Aaron Schock, Illinois, yesterday expressing disappointment at the Obama administration’s inability to provide a precise accounting of stimulus signage costs.

Issa and Schock are distressed at the poor oversight answers the six government agencies involved in administering stimulus projects were able to deliver in response to a straight-forward question: How much did the stimulus signs cost the taxpayers?

Now, not confident that the Obama administration has the desire or the ability to precisely account for stimulus signage, Issa’s office has asked “Citizen Watchdogs” to take pictures of stimulus signs and send them to Issa’s Washington office in order to conduct the “in-the-trenches accountability” job the Obama administration “has failed to do as promised.”

The correspondence file WND examined begins with a June 24 message Issa addressed to Devaney, asking him to provide a “complete accounting of all guidance issued by any federal agency to recipients of stimulus funds, including federal, state and local agencies, on the posting of signs, logos or emblems intended to publicly identify the source or expenditure of stimulus funds.”

In his response letter dated Sept. 9, Devaney acknowledged the difficulty of providing the precise accounting Issa had requested, noting that the six agencies involved in stimulus spending signs had not used any consistent accounting methodology to track signage costs as ARRA projects were being implemented.

In an attempt to reconstruct an accounting of signage costs, Devaney admitted that the Commerce Department, Defense Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the General Services Agency – had each resorted to “diverse methods to arrive at a total cost assessment for Recovery Act signage.”

Even after each agency involved their inspector general’s office in reconstructing the cost estimate Issa requested, no agency was able to give a precise accounting of stimulus signage.

Instead, each agency resorted to what amounted to making estimates of signage expenditures, based on methodology and sample size that varied from agency to agency.

For instance, Craig Hooks, assistant administrator at the EPA, responded in a letter dated Sept. 3, explaining that EPA “costs and types of signs vary greatly” and “[EPA] recipients of ARRA grants” were “not required to report signage information,” with the result that “the agency [the EPA] does not possess such information.”

Still, despite these accounting deficiencies, Hooks expressed confidence that the “limited sample” examined by the EPA’s office of inspector general permitted the agency “to develop costs associated with our programs which we believe represent a reasonable approach and response to the congressman’s inquiry.”

In responding to Issa’s request to determine EPA stimulus sign costs, the EPA surveyed only nine of one group of 4,687 EPA-managed stimulus projects, certifying that this limited sample represented EPA’s total cost assessment.

Issa, in a response letter to Devaney dated yesterday and co-signed by Schock, expressed disappointment, writing that “the cost estimates provided by federal agencies fall short of the information you requested in response to his inquiry and raise serious questions about the ability of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board to obtain the information necessary to bring transparency and accountability to the expenditure of stimulus funds.”

In the letter, Issa and Schock asked Devaney what additional authorities or resources Congress “can provide you to enable you to hold government agencies accountable for their stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”

WND previously reported that Issa’s charge is not just that spending stimulus has failed to create jobs, but the additional spending on stimulus road signs amounts to nothing more than a “propaganda” effort by the White House to convince Americans the stimulus has been successful, despite evidence to the contrary.

Issa’s office released an interactive map that allows readers to click on geographical locations around the country to view photographs citizens have taken of the nearly ubiquitous green American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signs the Obama administration has been posting to advertise the “jobs created or saved” the White House likes to tout have resulted from deficit-spending stimulus projects.

WND reports that a scathing Oversight Republican Staff Report has charged that the White House has “used the machinery of the Obama campaign to tout the president’s agenda through inappropriate and sometimes unlawful public relations and propaganda activities.”