Big Brother's Big Brother: New Online Databases Combine Easy Interfaces and Government Oversight

Waste, fraud and abuse – endemic to any large-scale bureaucracy. Agencies like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and others were created specifically to hinder these practices (thought, let's be honest – other agencies like the SEC sometimes act like arms of the very industries they were created to police).

So, wouldn't it be nice to have a civilian ombudsman, or a group to oversee and streamline – or at least witness and document – where exactly US taxpayers' money goes? Some new online portals, like Govini and, are trying to accomplish just that.

There is a wealth of information out there, but too often from different sources and in different formats. Collating that data is time-consuming and difficult, and nearly impossible for a layperson to accomplish. Enter technology (from

The market for government data is getting increasingly democratized as companies find ways to dislodge and repackage federal information. For example, the subscription-based government contract opportunities site Govini offers detailed information and analytics on contracts and spending that was once the province of expensive service firms. Now a free, ad-supported service is trying to tackle a related space.

Websites like this existed before, but they were subscription-only, or designed with more saavy users (or government employees themselves) in mind. These, not so much: 

"I tried to make it as clear as possible for the users. I want people who hopefully don't know anything about government spending to know what's going in," product manager Nina Quattrochhi said in an interview with FCW.

And it's only going to get better:

Right now, the site is able to offer data on obligated funds, but not expenditures. However, as implementation of the Data Act proceeds, payment level information will become available in machine-readable format, greatly enhancing the level of detail offered by FindTheBest, as well as other sites that rely on federal spending data.

Private models and government agencies don't always need to be at odds. Sites like this make government more accountable to the people it should actually serve – the taxpayers who fund it.



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