March 16, 2009's Failure To Launch

THE MUCH-touted online transparency promised by the Obama administration to allow public tracking of federal stimulus funds might still be months away, as agencies puzzle over the depth of detail required in their weekly reports and Web site architects scramble to design a user-friendly database to handle an ocean of information.

Good-government groups and administration officials envision the Web site as a clearinghouse that lets citizens monitor the dollar-by-dollar effects of economic recovery funds in their hometowns. But with a variety of details in weekly reports from federal agencies, duplicative or hard-to-decipher data sources and reporting requirements that critics say are too shallow to offer meaningful oversight at the local level, the site so far offers little help to watchdogs hoping to map the flow of $787 billion in funds.

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