OTR Interviews

The $18M Web Site

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Transparency -- it's hard to really put a price tag on that, right? Well, we have a number for you tonight, and it's a bit of a whopper. Are you ready? Here it is. The government is spending $18 million to revamp Recovery.gov, the site where you can go to see how your money is being spent.

Rick Klein, author of "The Note" at ABCNEWS.com joins use. And he broke it, I might add. He got the story. All right, so $18 million to redo a Web site.

RICK KLEIN, "THE NOTE," ABCNEWS.COM: Not a bad idea.

VAN SUSTEREN: First of all, how do you get that job?

KLEIN: Yes, well...

VAN SUSTEREN: The first thing is how -- that may be job creation he's talking about?

KLEIN: I'll take half. I don't know. You think -- yes, no, it's actually a five-year contract. About half of that is the redesign of the Web site, and I think everyone can agree that Recovery.gov needs a redesign, but this is an expensive one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do -- well, wait. Who -- who is the one who did the bad design to begin with that we need a redesign so soon?

KLEIN: Well, yes. It was rolled out, and I think it was -- it wasn't really ready for primetime. If you go on it right now, it isn't very ready (ph). So they set aside this money. (INAUDIBLE) is that this is about transparency. This is to see where your taxpayer dollars are being -- or how they're being spent. They're spending $18 million to make it all happen over -- over a five-year period.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I mean, we -- we talk about $787 billion in the stimulus, so that $18 million doesn't -- it sort of seems like chump change a little bit.

KLEIN: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: But if you stop and think about it, $18 million is a lot of money! What could possibly -- why could this possibly be so expensive?

KLEIN: Better be really good, right? It's funny, they- there's now a Web site where you can track government spending and it costs about $600,000 to get that software license. So you could do this for a lot cheaper. They're saying they want to -- they want to make sure this is -- this is really good, keeps all the promises of transparency. But there's a perception problem here. And as they struggle to get money out the door, to see a contract of this size awarded just to show people where the money is being spent -- it just doesn't square.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. All right, if -- so if the basic one is $600,000, let's really go hog wild. Let's spend a million, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Now we got $17 million to save. I mean, that's -- I mean, if -- I mean, it's, like, these numbers are ridiculous!

KLEIN: We haven't seen the details of the contract yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, that's my next question. Who got the contract?

KLEIN: It's a company -- it's a company in Maryland, a very small company, actually, in Maryland. It doesn't look like there were a lot of bidders from it, from (INAUDIBLE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Was there more than one bidder?

KLEIN: Yes, there was more than one, but I don't think there was more than three or four.

VAN SUSTEREN: When was the -- was there -- was there a sort of a wide neck for the -- a lot of people were notified you can bid on this?

KLEIN: People that are in the business knew about this. And they put out the bid maybe about a month ago. It was, I think, early June that they -- they said they needed this up and running very quickly because they have a deadline under the statute of October to have all this done, so they knew they had to make this happen very quickly. They were proud of it. They sent out a -- GSA, the General Services Administration, put out a press release last night very proud of the fact that they had made this happen on an expedited basis.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, is that the best number, $18 million? Is that the lowest number, or is that just the bid that they decided to take?

KLEIN: It's the bid that they decided to take. We haven't seen...

VAN SUSTEREN: So there could be a $15 million one. We could have -- maybe we could have gotten by on the cheap, $15 million.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN: I suppose. I mean, look, they make a decision based on a lot of different factors. One of them is price, also to make sure that someone can do the job, is likely to be able to present something that's going to work. But like you said, it better be damn good.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, as I listen to this discussion we're having, it -- this is insane, $18 million to revamp a Web site when there are people in this country who have lost jobs. I mean, with two million people in this country -- I mean, it's just -- it's extraordinary!

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: You have the vice president out there trying to sell the stimulus. He was out in a couple of different places today. The Obama administration realizes they have a perception problem around the stimulus, that people are beginning to judge it, maybe prematurely, but the expectations were so high that this money would all be spent very quickly, that it would create all these new jobs, and I think they're suffering for it now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you fold that into -- and I've got a continuing gripe with the White House about the picture they took of the Air Force One over Manhattan. They released one photo, and so we asked for the other photos. We had to file a Freedom of Information Act request. They still haven't complied with it. And you know that they took a bazillion photographs. And I can upload a -- you know, a hundred photographs in 10 minutes from my laptop, but they can't get us those -- they spent all that money! And now this.

KLEIN: Well, this is the (INAUDIBLE) transparency. I guess if this is a really good Web site and we're able to see this, maybe it'll be a useful tool.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are they embarrassed?

KLEIN: You know, I didn't detect anything along those lines. The General Services Administration says this won't be a waste of taxpayer dollars. They say, Look at the final product and you'll be very proud of it. They say that this is not a huge price in the big scheme of how much money is going out the door. They also point out that a lot of this has to do with data storage and the like...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I'm putting out a challenge to anyone who's watching this, if you think that you could do a better revamp of this site for less than $18 million, e-mail us or go to GretaWire.com and post it because I'm just -- I cannot believe this has to cost $18 million.

KLEIN: And cut us in on the business.

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and actually, and Rick and I want our little cut on this, but (INAUDIBLE) it's unbelievable, $18 million for a Web site.

KLEIN: That's a -- it's a really -- it could be a really nice Web site, we can hope.

VAN SUSTEREN: You told me I could get one for $600,000.

KLEIN: Well, that's...

VAN SUSTEREN: That even seemed expensive!

KLEIN: That's for the software...

VAN SUSTEREN: That seemed expensive!

KLEIN: That's where the software is now, that's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: So $600,000 for the software?

KLEIN: For the current -- for the current software on this -- on the spending Web site. That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm going to read your note because I'm sure you'll follow up on this. Rick, thank you.

KLEIN: Thanks.

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