The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found problems with implementation of a law designed to improve the transparency and quality of all Federal spending data.
In a new report, the GAO said some of the definitions provided to agencies for reporting spending data under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA) are inadequate, and “could lead to inconsistent reporting.”
Michelle Sager, GAO’s director of strategic issues, said in a podcast accompanying the report that the law directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Treasury to “establish governmentwide standards to improve the transparency and quality of all Federal spending data, while allowing the government to track more types of spending and provide assurance of data quality.”
The GAO inquiry, however, found that without more clarification and technical guidance, agencies run the risk of reporting data that cannot be consistently aggregated and compared governmentwide.
To deal with this problem, the GAO said OMB and Treasury must clarify some of the standards already issued because they could lead to different interpretations.
In addition, the GAO said OMB and Treasury must take steps to align the release of finalized technical guidance with the implementation time frames specified in the law.
The law required OMB and Treasury to establish governmentwide data standards by May 2015. Agencies must begin reporting spending data in accordance with these standards by May 2017 and must publicly begin posting spending data in machine-readable formats by May 2018.
If effectively implemented, Sager said, the law “will make information on Federal spending easy accessible, comparable across agencies and reliable.”
“All of these improvements together would result in additional opportunities for improved oversight, for better management and for taxpayers knowing where the $3.5 trillion in annual Federal spending goes and how it is being spent,” said Sager.
While the process is moving in the right direction, Sager said, “additional guidance will continue to be needed to ensure success.”
To read the report, click here: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-261