Data

Legislative mandates provide direction on data

Data analytics 

Since the passage of the OPEN Government Data Act, and the Foundations for Evidence Based Policymaking Act, the federal government has been more uniform with guidelines about how agencies are expected to oversee the data they collect and share with other departments.

Department of Veterans Affairs Chief Data Officer Kshemendra Paul, speaking at an Association of Government Accountants event last week, said that legislative frameworks reduced the tendency of big government agencies to "stovepipe" their data sets, where large amounts of information sit unused and isolated from other systems where they might be helpful.

"All too often data ends up in programmatic stovepipes, and it's not managed so you end up with data rot. Key to the CDO role is the idea that now there's a senior agency official that's looking at data across its lifecycle." Paul added that the data the VA collects is used to analyze things such as budgeting and policy priorities in order to better serve veterans.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the Inspector General's Chief Data and Analytics Officer Caryl Brzymialkiewicz said frameworks served as "validation" for the organization.

"We've been engaged with the open data community, and we've been engaged in the data cabinet. We had been doing a lot of the things that are already articulated in the Federal Data Strategy and the intent of the Evidence Act," she said at the same event, adding that the law served as a reminder that the organization was on "the right path." Being able to analyze large amounts of data allowed HHS to aid prosecutors in a major Medicare fraud trial, where improper payments reached over $1 billion.

However, agency officials say there's still work to be done to improve their data analytics skills. "There's still a lot of manual work happening behind the scenes when HHS is audited," Bryzmialkiewicz said.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a former staff writer and associate editor at FCW.

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