The government purchased technology for a similar site (with a somewhat smaller scope), USASpending.gov, from the non-profit group OMB Watch for only $600,000. A private company already provides information on Recovery Act spending to the public for free.
I wrote here enthusiastically about the plans of the Sunlight Foundation to go after this contract, saying “[T]he contract award will now be subject to public scrutiny. Value-for-dollar to the taxpayer will be easily discernible, and that will raise the political risks of awarding the contract based on cronyism or go-with-whatchya-knowism. Transparency in all things.”
Sunlight did not ultimately bid. Instead, it took some lessons about the government contracting business. The transparency I wrote about materialized, though, and we can take a lesson, too: The federal government will pay $18,000,000 for one freaking Web site.