Tags : federal

Analysis finds non-competitive Canadian contracts

This data-driven investigation was years in the making.

The Canadian government has for some time required its agencies to report all contracts valued over $10,000. Along with travel expenses and grant awards, these contract announcements fall under what the government calls proactive disclosure. Each agency, or ministry, in Canada has a link on its website for these quarterly proactive disclosure reports.

The government, however, only posts online bare-bone details and one consultant who has raked in government work described it as “just a proactive way to bury information.”

The format in which this data is presented is not very ...

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Much judicial secrecy in Consumer Protection Safety Commission case

Two years ago, the federal Consumer Protection Safety Commission launched saferproducts.gov, an online tool for consumers to review complaints and warnings about hazardous products. Since it launched, Fair Warning reports, the first lawsuit by a business attempting to conceal a complaint is "blazing new trails in judicial secrecy."

"Thanks to closed-door hearings, sealed records and a 73-page ruling with large sections blacked out, even the most basic details are concealed. That includes the identity of the plaintiff — known only as “Company Doe” — along with its product and the incident that led to the complaint.

"Adding to the mystery, the ...

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Behind the Story: How the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel learned about an ATF sting gone wrong

Credit: Lou Saldivar, Journal Sentinel Graphics Editor

John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge of the Journal Sentinel had an opportunity to gain rare insight into an undercover government operation in 2012. Their watchdog reporting on the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' sting operation in Milwaukee revealed the operation may have done more harm than good in the neighborhood it was intended to help. The operation’s problems raise further questions about  the agency’s competency in light of the Fast and Furious operation, in which agents sold guns to gun traffickers in Arizona from 2006 to 2011 ...

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Store owners slip past USDA ban

The store owners had already been caught engaging in fraud. They’d been busted swapping food stamps for small amounts of cash and as punishment, permanently ejected from the federal food stamp program.

But an examination of state and local ownership records told a different story. Dozens of store owners, using false pretenses, quietly rejoined the U.S. Department of Agriculture program. The USDA failed to vet the applications, so the merchants were able to slip back in and continue to shortchange customers and taxpayers, who lose an estimated $330 million a year.

That was the takeaway of a computer-assisted ...

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Mapping it Out: Population growth around nuke plants

Our biggest mistake was thinking it’d be easy.

In late 2009, long before the nuclear accident in Japan, I had embarked on an investigative series on nuclear power. Under the direction of Associated Press National Investigative Editor Rick Pienciak, I was examining how well nuclear power plants hold up as they age. I was focusing on considering harmful factors within the plants, everything from radiation to rust. Soon, I began to wonder about safety outside the plants’ grounds. Had population growth in surrounding communities undermined what was once viewed as a fundamental safety feature of the plants: remote locations ...

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First Venture: Pivot tables help show aiport loss claims

Somewhere in the tilting tower of boxes that passes for my personal archive are the files from my first attempt at data journalism—an investigative piece about the Minneapolis Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit. You’ll find no CDs with database files in there. No printed spreadsheets either; just a small stack of hand-drawn grids with case counts, closure stats, and other vitals. I don’t even know if I had Microsoft Excel installed on my work computer at the time. It never occurred to me that there might be a better way to store and process the information ...

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