DATA Act Compliance Shows Room for Improvement

On 23 July 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that examined the quality of agencies’ spending data in the context of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (the DATA Act).

Perhaps of some concern, the GAO found that a wide number of CFO Act agencies and non-CFO Act agencies failed to provide data deemed to be “complete, timely, accurate, or of quality” under the DATA Act.

What did the GAO report find?

Looking at 53 Offices of Inspector General (OIG) reports that were issued on or prior to 31 January 2018, the GAO found that just 6 of 24 CFO Act agencies had data deemed generally complete, timely, accurate, or of quality. When it came to non-CFO Act agencies, the rate of compliance was only marginally better, with 9 out of 29 agencies deemed to comply.

The OIGs reported that data error rates appeared higher when it came to reporting on the accuracy of data, as opposed to factors such as completeness or timeliness.

Given that the GAO’s review looked at the first submissions by agencies of their spending data for Q2 2017, it’s understandable that there will still be some growing pains when it comes to compliance with the DATA Act. At any rate, it will be disconcerting that such a high proportion of agencies did not produce complete data during this initial reporting period. As a result, it’s evident that some additional work needs to be done when it comes to DATA Act compliance.

While the GAO did not make any specific recommendations following its report, it did note the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued recent guidance that requires agencies to produce data quality plans, with the aim of meeting and improving data quality standards so that they can meet the standards under the DATA Act.

What is the DATA Act?

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 seeks to provide the American public more information on federal spending and see where their tax money is being spent. As part of the Act, agencies provide spending data on a quarterly basis to the Treasury under a common reporting framework. The first submission deadline was in May 2017.

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