Faced with suspicion by its congressional funders, e-Government is getting basically a last hearing during the the current budget process, Government Computer News reports.
Agencies are slated to swap a little more than $192.9 million dollars among themselves to keep 19 E-Government and five Line of Business initiatives running over the next eight months. But restrictive language in appropriation bills has put that funding in jeopardy and potentially could hamstring a number of high-profile projects, compelling administration officials to make their case to appropriations committee staff members like never before.
Congress opened the door for this dialogue after requiring OMB to submit a report detailing agency spending on these projects in the 2006 Treasury, Trans- portation, Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies spending bill.
OMB officials said they welcome this “unprecedented level of transparency of how agencies are implementing and benefiting from the E-Government initiatives.” OMB officials are armed with a greater degree of detail than ever before—breaking spending down by agency and by project to make sure lawmakers get a clear picture of where the money is going.
Congress is strictly limiting the ability of agencies to transfer funds among e-government projects.
The E-Government program is in this fix because the appropriations committees—especially the House’s—have never supported the administration’s efforts. From not fully funding the administration’s $100 million E-Government Fund re- quest to using agency spending bills to restrict the transfer of funds, the House has time and again tried to stymie e-government initiatives.
And in the Treasury, Transportation and HUD appropriations bill, lawmakers went a step further. Members placed a provision in the bill requiring OMB to submit a report detailing which agencies were transferring how much money and to which projects. The report also had to specify how projects were to use the funds and the relevance of the project to the agency contributing funds.
Meanwhile project managers are stuck in limbo.
“We are not at risk of closing the door, but we are not happy about this,” Grants.gov manager John Etcheverry said. “This will affect what we will do, but we will make this happen. We have to have a discussion with the 25 other agencies involved in this project and OMB about the priorities, and we will go from there.”