We like transparency. We like statistics. We like up-to-date data.
But even we feel pity for stimulus grantees faced with a monsoon of reporting requirements. Beginning with March 30th reports, the federal Department of Energy has started to require monthly updates for weatherization assistance grants, energy efficiency grants, and state energy program grants. So many state officials are concerned about this that the Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National Governors Association sent a joint letter to the Department of Energy in order to register their frustration with the proposed change.
Chris Whatley, who heads the Council on State Governments’ Washington office, is concerned that the additional reporting burden could stymie the growth of green jobs – an area already lagging thanks to labor and procurement guidelines and other factors. A recent CSG report found that barely more than 2% of all ARRA jobs in the first quarter of reporting had been green jobs. “They have been slow and have been criticized and now you are going to triple their reporting requirements,.” Whatley told us. Perhaps more than triple; from what we understand, these monthly reports are in addition to the quarterly reports–which means some redundant reporting every third month.
Evan Curtis, who works in the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, notes that, for the most part, the people doing the work in areas like weatherization are also the people doing the reporting. That means, he says, “For every hour you take away for these reports you are literally taking away an hour that could have been spent weatherizing.”
Matt Fritz, an ARRA coordinator in Connecticut, understands the DOE’s motivation, “There is so much criticism of these major numbers and they want to offset that by saying ‘these are the things that are really happening, here’s what the money is really used for.’” But Fritz is nonetheless anxious that the reporting is beginning to crowd out the doing: “You end up spending a week every month to gear up to report. Are you spending more time to report than to deal with programmatic responsibilities?”
While it’s the DOE that has the states jittery now, there’s also concern about other agencies making the same requests. “Once the DOE does it,” Curtis asks, “what is to stop the other agencies from doing monthly too?”