As a possible extension of the TARP program looms, the House is set to vote on a measure that will bring more transparency and accountability into the program this week.  An amended version of H.R. 1242, the TARP Accountability and Disclosure Act, which CFA, ATR and many other groups have been supporting, was placed on the suspension calendar for today, while votes are postponed until tomorrow.

The amendments tighten up the disclosure requirements, prohibit release of information that is prohibited from disclosure under Federal or State law or regulation, or considered proprietary, and sets a clear deadline of 30 days after the date of enactment for the Secretary of the Treasury to issue a request for proposlas and award contract services, and 180 days for the database to be operational.

ATR and CFA have sent a letter in support of the bill up for consideration this week. From our letter:

In spite of lofty promises on the part of the Administration, transparency and accountability in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) remain largely elusive, and have been a point of contention not only in public discourse, but also in recent reports issued by the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). Especially in light of the likely extension of the program into next year, it is all the more important that the Treasury Department be required to step up its oversight efforts with regard to the implementation of the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008,” and H.R. 1242 would provide for just that.

The fact that relevant data is currently widely dispersed over various agencies and in various formats hinders appropriate oversight efforts. H.R. 1242 would address this issue by requiring the consolidation and transformation of agency data, as well as other relevant information from other sources into a database hosted by the Department of the Treasury. This database would be made accessible to the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the Comptroller General, and the Congressional Oversight Panel. A key component is the explicit requirement to provide ongoing, continuous, and close to real-time updates of the data available. Consequently, those tasked with monitoring the implementation of the program will be provided with a useful tool to better monitor and trace transactions, and thereby spot potential problems in a timely fashion.

While we continue to believe that even greater disclosure of who received TARP funding (from primary, over intermediary to final recipients) and relevant documentation of these transactions via a searchable online database directly to the American taxpayer is also necessary to provide full transparency and accountability, we are confident that swift passage of H.R. 1242 will be a major step in this direction, and we urge you to vote “yes” on the TARP Accountability and Disclosure Act.