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Making Money Off Tracking The Stimulus

There is an old argument about whether the private sector is more efficient then the government. It is true that only the government can carry out certain tasks in society but in many cases the evil profit motive may make an individual or company do something quicker and better. A good example of this is Onvia Inc.

Onvia is a company that researches and provides to other companies for a fee information about local, state and Federal contract opportunities. They have developed data bases and search software to allow them to gather the data quickly and put it in a format usable by other companies. As such they were able to quickly build their website which is used to track how the stimulus money is being used. It has formed the basis of several articles at BNET: Government.

The Obama Administration has set up to basically provide the same information. The website has been controversial when it was announced that a contract worth over $9 million would be awarded to get the site properly set up. If you compare the .gov site to the .org you will see that the government is lagging in reporting contracts and spending.

Onvia is not doing this to be altruistic as they are using the site to advertise their services and availability of data. They charge for that and the company has seen some growth this year. The company has also already been testifying to Congress about the stimulus, spending and their website.

One of the major reasons that Onvia could move out so fast was that they weren't waiting to get a contract from anybody to do this. They did it themselves. As it has become very clear that lengthy and complicated contracting process used by the Federal and other governments in the United States has slowed down the flow of money from the "Stimulus" bill. There are many steps to writing a RFP, posting it, waiting on bids and adjudicating them. This is because the government wants to award the contract properly, legally and in line with all of the different regulations and rules about who should get contracts. The government does not want to be accused of wasting the tax payers money.

There is really no simple solution to this. If you waive or expedite contracting rules you end up with criticism for sole source, limited bid contracts and are accused of not getting the best price. If you follow the rules and do things methodically you are not doing it fast enough and helping the economy. Private sector companies can still waste their money on over priced, inefficient contracts but they may also get things done quicker as they only need to justify things to their management and share holders, not Congress or the Justice Department.