A revamped government watchdog site makes it easier than ever to check up on how federal agencies are spending your money.

OMB Watch launched the first in a series of upgrades to its popular FedSpending.org Web site, which is a searchable database of nearly all government spending since FY 2000. The site updates make FedSpending.org more comprehensive, more searchable, and more customizable. Journalists, researchers, and the public, among others, will benefit from the upgrades.

“OMB Watch is committed to making it easier to understand and use the complex information on FedSpending.org,” said Sean Moulton, Director of Information Policy at OMB Watch. “We hope the new features will allow widespread access to the data and encourage citizens to hold government accountable for its spending priorities.”

The upgraded FedSpending.org site includes the following improvements:

Updated Data — FY 2005 now contains all four quarters of federal assistance data (i.e., grants, loans, direct payments); the most recent publicly available data from the government for FY 2006 has been added for both federal contracts and federal assistance (but the data for both remains incomplete at this time); many problems in older data have been corrected.

Summary View — This level of detail has been designed to provide a better overview of contractors, recipients, congressional districts, states, and agencies, as well as other data categories, such as recipient type, assistance type, grant programs, products and services contracted for, and extent of competition. The summary view also includes a new Trend bar chart to quickly compare changes over time. The view is brand new for contracts and significantly upgraded for assistance.

XML Output — The site now provides an XML format for data through an Application Programming Interface (API), which will allow advanced users and programmers to design their own interfaces to pull and display FedSpending.org data.

More Searchable — Improvements in page titles and implementation of sitemaps protocol should make it easier to find FedSpending.org data through online search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc).
Improved Navigation and Help Files — The side bar navigation now includes a separate “Home” folder tab for the home page of the website, making it easier for visitors to navigate among the different sections of the website.

The help files have also been improved and expanded.

OMB Watch welcomes feedback on the upgrades and ideas for future improvements. The organization plans to launch two additional upgrades to the FedSpending.org Web site. Among the improvements that OMB Watch hopes to include are a mapping function, inflation adjustments, and the ability to combine federal spending data with other census data.