The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) has far-reaching government benefits as well as hurdles that must be addressed to ensure its success, according to authors of the research paper “The Data Act: Vision and Value.”
“We are really hoping that this report will help connect the DATA Act from being a compliance burden to being a responsibility,” said Hudson Hollister, Interim President of the Data Foundation and co-author of the paper.
“The DATA Act is a game-changer that will transform government spending and data transparency, and we are confident that The DATA Act: Vision & Value report provides thorough analysis of the law and offers an in-depth look at its proposed impact and benefits to the American people, agencies, watchdogs, and Federal grantees and contractors,” co-author Frank Landefeld, managing director and public sector market leader at MorganFranklin Consulting, said in the paper’s press release on Monday.
The DATA Act is intended to create a single source of Federal spending data that can be searched by government agencies, citizens, contractors, and watchdogs. The act was signed into law in 2014, and has been going through implementation stages over the past few years. The Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget have until May 2018 to publish all spending data under the act.
“I’m optimistic that agencies will meet the deadlines,” Hollister said. However, he also expressed concerns that legacy financial reporting methods, as well as the current system for accessing Federal financial data, would stand in the way of the act’s intended outcomes.
For example, though the act puts in place a new system of financial reporting that aims to streamline data for public access, old methods of financial reporting may still be required of agencies. And this dual system could lead agencies to think of the act as a repetitive compliance exercise, rather than a benefit to their operations.
“It’s everyone’s and no one’s job to turn Federal spending into searchable data,” Hollister said. “We need to have a clear signal from Treasury and OMB.”
Hollister also worries that the current identification number used to access Federal grant and contracting information, owned by Dun & Bradstreet and referred to as a DUNS Number, would limit public access to the financial data and “the full benefits of the DATA Act won’t be realized.”
Hollister hopes that the paper itself will help people whose work is crucial for the DATA Act to succeed and who will reap the most benefits to fully realize the many benefits laid out in the paper.
“Education is important,” Hollister said. “The paper brings together all of the history of the act [and] it explains what this law could do.”
“Through the release of the most comprehensive paper ever written on the DATA Act, we are proud to provide pointed recommendations to help ensure that all of the transformations envisioned by the law’s sponsors come to pass,” said Landefeld.