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Errors in Jobs Reporting No Surprise, Government's Stimulus Chief Testifies

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Recovery.gov

The head of the government panel charged with tracking the use of stimulus funds told lawmakers Thursday that he's not surprised to see mistakes like phantom congressional districts showing up on a Web site devoted to reporting jobs data.

Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said the newest mistakes have been corrected, but Americans just got a look at the sausage-making that goes into agency reporting.

"You and the American public are now seeing what agencies have seen internally for years, and what we are all seeing, at least following this first reporting period, is not particularly pretty," Devaney told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. 

"This raw form, unsanitized data may cause embarrassment for some agencies and recipients, but my expectation is that any embarrassment suffered will encourage self-correcting behavior and lead to better reporting in the future," he said.

The Obama administration's official Web site, Recovery.gov, has been posting reports fed by recipients of $173 billion in stimulus funding on how many jobs the grants they have received have created or saved in respective locales. 

The administration had announced that the stimulus has so far created or saved 640,000 jobs, but pared back the number of jobs created or saved by 60,000 from its initial analysis.

In virtually all 50 states, claims were made on behalf of congressional districts that don't exist.

The errors, including what the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, counted up as nearly $6.4 billion for nearly 30,000 jobs in 440 non-existing districts, has earned criticism from several Republicans, including Indiana Rep. Dan Burton.

Burton, who has a reputation for fiery and flamboyant eruptions during hearings, said the Obama administration has been "an absolute disaster as far as the economy is concerned."

He added that while President Obama is one of the most eloquent presidents Burton has heard in his lifetime, "all he does is campaign," and has done "almost zero" to promote job creation.  

"Where's he been the last 11 months?" Burton asked. 

In the administration's defense, Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont said the stimulus has been a "lifeline" to his state. 

And Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House, elicited from acting U.S. Comptroller Gene Dodaro, the head of the Government Accountability Office, a statement to the effect that the 640,000 jobs figure is perhaps a low ball estimate because stimulus spending has a "multiplier effect" not accounted for in the flawed data stream seen on Recovery.gov.

Dodaro acknowledged that his office has received false data about estimates for "full-time equivalents," or FTEs, an industry term referring to full-time jobs. 

"We find about 4,000 reports that had no money expended, but yet claimed over 50,000 FTEs that had been reported," Dodaro testified. "There are other reports where money has been expended but no FTEs have been reported under those reports." 

Dodaro said that one in five reports submitted by stimulus money recipients were not reviewed by any federal agency, and the White House Office of Management and Budget estimated that one in 10 recipients of stimulus money did not report one way or the other about the number of jobs created or saved. 

When Burton asked how the administration can tell if a job has been saved, he was at first met with silence by the panel. Rep. Jim Jordan was also greeted with silence when he asked whether any of the witnesses had ever seen the term "jobs created or saved" used as a metric of measurement by the federal government.

Fox News' James Rosen contributed to this report.

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