This is an installment in a series of columns that originally appeared at about the ongoing efforts of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and its oversight of the $840 billion Recovery program.

What makes for good government?

Building partnerships is certainly a key. Consider the work the Recovery Board has done with its partners at the federal and state levels.

The other day, at a national leadership conference in Washington sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants, I spoke about how cooperation among the Recovery Board, other federal agencies and state officials had produced a more efficient and effective oversight process for the $840 billion Recovery program.

That cooperation is no accident. The Recovery Act, passed in February 2009, encourages states to work closely with the federal government. The law requires the Governor of each state to certify that Recovery funds would be spent properly, a requirement that makes Governors key players in the oversight process.

From the beginning, the Board has focused on assisting state governments. We set up an office that serves as a direct contact for state and local oversight officials, along with Governors and state program agencies. The Board also created a robust “help desk” for state governments and other recipients who must file quarterly reports with, the website used to collect spending data.

The federal Inspector General community also works closely with state oversight agencies. As the Inspector General of the Department of Education, I can speak first-hand about this subject. At Education, we focused on ensuring accountability at the state level and local levels.

My office:

  • Worked closely with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog agency, to determine which states and local education agencies would be reviewed.
  • Shared audit guidelines with state and local auditors who had responsibility for overseeing their Recovery programs.
  • Developed a strong outreach program allowing for continuing contacts by our auditors and investigators at the state and local levels.

In the end, cooperation throughout all levels of government has paid nice dividends: There’s been a lot less fraud and waste in the Recovery program than was initially anticipated.

Kathleen S. Tighe serves as Chair of the Recovery Board.