Oversight

The DATA Act compliance struggle is real

data cleansing 

More than a year after the go-live date for the Data Accountability and Transparency Act, just six of the 24 major agencies submitted financial data considered complete, timely, accurate or high-quality by agency watchdogs.

The Government Accountability Office's newest DATA Act update, which collates inspectors general findings on agencies' progress on implementing 2014 open government law, reported the majority of the reviewed agencies' financial data submissions are lacking.

One of the problems agency IGs found is that use of data standards and quality of data varied. Only about half of the 53 agencies met the requirements for implementation and use of data standards.

The most common deficiencies were a lack of effective procedures or controls, IT system challenges and insufficient documentation. One IG found its agency did not complete necessary system updates prior to submission, and another found its agency's IT system deficiencies resulted in more than 12,000 transactions that weren't properly received.

Across government, the DATA Act broker, run by the Department of Treasury, also was the source of certain reporting errors that "were beyond the control of the affected agencies," the report stated.

Almost all IGs made recommendations about how to improve their DATA Act reporting. The most common recommendations "related to the need for agencies to develop controls over their data submissions, develop procedures to address errors, and finalize or implement procedures or guidance," GAO stated. Nine CFO Act IGs recommended the modification of systems or the implementation of systems controls.

By and large, agencies concurred with the recommendations.

As a result of the findings, Office of Management and Budget staff and Treasury officials told GAO they plan to take steps to address the issues found, including possibly issuing guidance and working with agencies to improve reporting.

Hudson Hollister, who helped draft the DATA Act as an aide to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and is currently the executive director of the Data Coalition, said these findings "are not cause for concern," pointing out Treasury and OMB officials have already begun taking steps to improve the data reported to the USAspending.gov site.

Hollister added, "the key to improving the data quality will truly happen when all stakeholders begin to use the newly available dataset."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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