Recently, CDT was asked to testify
about the ways that technology can be used to improve financial oversight during a 2009 congressional session that saw "bank bailouts," "housing markets" and "economic stability" become commonly used buzzwords. While TARP and mortgages aren't our usual area of expertise, we have a lot to say on how Congress can ensure that the databases supporting these endeavors can help the government be more transparent and protect privacy at the same time.
The Troubled Asset Relief Program - or TARP - has been in the news a lot lately, as the program designed to strengthen the financial sector comes under scrutiny from the media and the public to figure out whether or not the program is actually working. Unfortunately, there hasn't been an effective way to track TARP funding, in part because so many agencies are involved in distributing the money. One of the bills we discussed, H.R. 1242
(and companion bill S. 910
), would create a centralized database for TARP information. It's surprising that a program of this size doesn't already have a way to consolidate the information around it's expenditures, but not even the oversight committee has an easy time tracking the dollars. TARP funds are distributed by 25 agencies, using incompatible and outdated systems to track spending. The H.R. 1242 database would not only centralize this information for easy access, but would require almost real-time updates to the information.
We believe that the database needs to be made public in order to allow the media, watchdogs, and citizens to see how TARP money is being spent.
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