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Sunlight Files Government Spending FOIA Lawsuit

The Sunlight Foundation today filed its first ever Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Sunlight is filing suit against the General Services Administration because the GSA is six months behind on a FOIA request for federal government contract information maintained by the website FedBizOpps.gov.

"We are pursuing litigation as a way to support the work of Sunlight's technology arm, Sunlight Labs," says Ginger McCall, federal policy manager at the Sunlight Foundation. "The information we are requesting will give more oversight to how government contracts are bid, awarded and managed."

This FOIA lawsuit is particularly important as the development of HealthCare.gov continues to come under scrutiny.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services originally signed a contract for "Enterprise System Development" in 2007, which eventually came to include work on the health exchange website, yet it is very difficult to find the original solicitation for the contract.

In May 2013, Sunlight sent a FOIA request to the GSA requesting a copy of all contract notices posted on the federal government website, Fedbizopps.gov, since 2000. These notices would allow Sunlight Labs developers (and members of the press or researchers) to analyze government spending patterns for inaccuracies, corruption and waste.

Fedbizopps.gov, often shortened to fbo.gov, posts information about federal contracting opportunities and awards, as well as notices when a contract is sole-sourced without competition. However, fbo.gov users can only search its online archives from the previous year, preventing the public from researching the original solicitations when a contract goes bad.

As Sunlight's analyses at Clearspending.org note, there are often huge discrepancies in government spending reports. The data we requested under FOIA would enable us to inspect those discrepancies on the procurement side, figure out where government money is going, and look for patterns related to no bid or low bid contracts. Once we get the notices from the GSA, we plan to make the data available to the public so that others can analyze it, as well.

Learn more about why Sunlight sued the GSA on our blog, and read the full complaint filed with the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia here.

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See also: Health Care Sign-Ups: This Is What Transparency Looks Like.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on November 18, 2013


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