VA data process needs improvement, IG says

VA's data review plan is OK but has a few gaps

The Veterans Affairs Department should improve the process it has to find missing or erroneous data in its reports on economic stimulus law funding, according to a new audit from the department’s Office of Inspector General.

The VA has received Office of Management and Budget approval for its limited data quality review plan for the $1.4 billion to be distributed by the the department under the stimulus law. The law provides for $1 billion for the Veterans Health Administration maintenance and energy projects, $150 million for grants to build extended-care facilities and $50 million for the National Cemetery Administration.

Under the law, federal agencies must make regular reports on how the money is being spent and must develop plans for reviewing data quality. Meanwhile, data quality worries transparency advocates and the White House.

The VA’s data audit plan could be improved by specifying how many contracts and grants will be reviewed, who will perform the reviews, how to format the reviews and to whom to report the reviews, Belinda Finn, assistant inspector general, wrote in a report of Oct. 30t. Finn said she was not making recommendations, but was suggesting modifications.

“By modifying the current data quality review plan as we have suggested, VA would further ensure the transparency and accountability over Recovery Act funds and enhance data quality reviews,” Finn wrote.

VA officials agreed that the modifications would be helpful and intend to reassess the data quality review plan before the next spending reporting period that starts next January, the report said.

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About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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