A new partnership between Bank of New York Mellon and Microsoft Corp. will help local and state governments fulfill their accountability requirements under the federal stimulus act.
The two companies collaborated to create new analytic software to ensure that transparency and accountability requirements in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 are met.
The software is called Microsoft Stimulus360, which is designed to help governments track and manage stimulus funds. Through the partnership, BNY Mellon Corporate Trust will act as an independent third party to provide its financial expertise in project fund administration.
"We've heard people say these federal dollars are the most closely watched federal dollars in history, and that's probably true," said Mark Brown, a managing director of the municipal finance division at BNY Mellon Corporate Trust.
BNY Mellon Corporate Trust has 46,000 accounts with municipalities, or 43% of market share, and currently services $12 trillion in outstanding debt. The first reporting period for state and local government recipients is from Oct. 1 to Oct. 10.
The software uses a live feed between BNY Mellon Corporate Trust and public agencies, offering a one-stop program for all projects funded by the stimulus package.
Stimulus360 also enables the average taxpayer to track where funds are being allocated. It includes a visual component, which allow citizens to compare how state and local funds square with a region's unemployment rate.
Live, birds-eye pictures will also help users observe projects under development. For instance, if a bridge was being constructed, the user could check its progress on a daily basis.
"It's visual transparency as well as data transparency," said Colleen Healy, general manager of Microsoft's U.S. financial services group.
Healy said the partnership "brings richness and expertise" to local governments, so they can put their resources into the ultimate goal of job creation.
"Managing data is not necessarily where governments want to put their people, so they can save resources by using two market leaders to do it for them," she added.
Asserting that this could be a new era for government accountability, BNY's Brown pointed to a recent survey from the Government Finance Officers Association, which showed that nearly a quarter of government officials "expect major shifts toward broad transparency for all government spending."
Healy said the regulation requirements were "some of the most stringent in history," adding that given that the size of the $787 billion stimulus plan, that makes sense. "Taxpayers in any era want to know where their money is going," she said. "From our perspective, accounting and transparency are never a bad thing."