Werfel: New laws could set back transparency efforts

Lawmakers should not pass new legislation that could upend the administration’s progress on making government spending more transparent, said Danny Werfel, controller at the Office of Management and Budget. Werfel told a Senate committee that lawmakers need to seriously think about the impact of new statutes on ongoing efforts to improve government accounting and tracking its money.

The administration has been implementing new laws, such as the Improper Payment Elimination and Recovery Act and another law that updates the Government Performance and Results Act, called the GPRA Modernization Act.

As Congress considers new transparency measures, Werfel offered a key question for senators to ask themselves when considering proposed legislation: Would  the new law reinforce current objectives, or would it move the government in different directions?

If it would turn the government in a new direction, then it will cost more money. For instance, federal information systems that agencies have been building would need to be reengineered once again for “a new nuanced set of requirements and standards,” he said.

“We need to have a real compelling case for why these additional data elements or additional changes are important, because they could necessitate a diversion of resources from where we’re currently executing against a set of statutes,” he told the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in a hearing held July 18.

Nevertheless, transparency legislation is moving through Congress. In April, the House passed by voice vote its Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or the DATA Act (H.R. 2146). The bill would create the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Commission, which is to succeed the board that oversaw spending reports for the 2009 economic stimulus law. In addition, agencies would be required to submit their spending data to a new platform with consistent electronic identifiers and markup language.

Werfel has not been in favor of the DATA Act. In a speech in June, Werfel said the bill would add more regulatory complexity while removing some of the necessary OMB oversight.

Today, Werfel said he doesn’t object to the relentless pursuit of transparency, but he’s concerned about the details.

“The disagreements are in the strategy in how we get there,” he said.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced a Senate version of the DATA Act (S. 1222) in 2011, but today said he intends reintroduce the bill with changes. He told the committee his primary goal is to expand the existing law to require the government to disclose to taxpayers federal spending in greater detail. However, he’s seeing things differently since last year.

“I will admit that a year ago I believed that we needed a new government entity to oversee transparency and my opinion has evolved over the past year,” he said in testimony. Based on the progress the government has made, the more cost-effective way of doing it is not duplicating efforts that are already underway.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group