State Agency Requires Transparency When Spending

Tuesday, May 12th 2009, 9:35 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- According to State Treasurer Scott Meachum, billions of dollars in stimulus money will help avoid some budget cuts and now it's up to a few state officials to make sure that money doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

Almost every state agency has been clamoring for some of this stimulus money since President Obama signed the Recovery and Re-Investment Act into law, but now that the $2.6 billion is flowing into the state, each agency must keep detailed records on where it's going.

"I don't consider it laborious at all," said Secretary of State Susan Savage. "I consider it a very interesting and exciting opportunity."

Savage, State Treasurer Scott Meachum and State Auditor Steve Burrage are all executive committee members of the American Recovery and Re-investment Act Coordinating Council.

They will keep close tabs on the federal stimulus dollars.

Stimulus Watch: Follow the Money

"No one wants an investigation," Savage said. "We want to do it well and we want to do it right."

Governor Henry issued an executive order forming the committee just before the stimulus dollars started flowing into the Sooner State.

Some of the projects funded with that money are currently underway.

Recent figures show $238 million went to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and about $317 million went to education.

The rest will likely be divvied up between several other agencies such as Commerce, Energy, Health, Housing and public safety.

"The administration is requesting and requiring that this money be spent as quickly as possible to stimulate the economy," Burrage said.

But Burrage also warns about wasteful spending.

"They also want it to be spend free of waste fraud and abuse and if that is going to happen, they wan that found on the front end, rather than on the back end," Burrage said.

Burrage put together a questionnaire which he will give to the smaller agencies which do not have auditors on site. He drafted this document after meeting with President Obama and his accountability and oversight board.

"I feel the public has a right to know that the public's dollars are expended in an effective and an efficient manner," Burrage said.

There is still debate over whether the stimulus will work in the way President Obama expected, but the Meachum said the money did help avoid budget cuts.