GAO: Treasury, OMB must better monitor Data Act progress

The Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget need to better monitor agencies' efforts to implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or they risk jeopardizing the law's timely enactment.

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The Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget need to better monitor agencies' progress in preparing to implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act or they could jeopardize full enactment by the May 2017 deadline, according to a recent Government Accountability Office review.

Each year, the federal government spends some $3.7 trillion on operations, and the Data Act, an open-government law passed in 2014, seeks to make federal spending more transparent by standardizing how financial information is reported and shared on the USAspending website.

The law tasks Treasury and OMB with overseeing governmentwide implementation of the law, and GAO's review is part of an ongoing, periodic assessment of progress.

The report states that Treasury and OMB lack sufficient controls and processes to review agencies' implementation plans. Auditors also said Treasury and OMB do not have a comprehensive list of agencies to which the Data Act applies. In June, OMB requested updated plans by Aug. 12 but only from agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act.

Additionally, agencies are slow to adopt Treasury and OMB's guidance and the Data Act Playbook.

The guidance lists 51 elements to be included in agency implementation plans in four categories: timeline for completion, cost estimate, narrative and project plan.

None of the 42 agency plans GAO reviewed listed all 51 elements. Nine other agencies did not submit plans because the Data Act does not apply to them, they are adopting shared-services providers' plans, or they had not yet completed their plans.

GAO auditors determined that, on average, agency plans included 74 percent of the elements in the timeline category, 48 percent in the cost estimate category, 58 percent in the narrative category and 39 percent in the project plan category. CFO Act agencies generally included more elements than other agencies did.

In the cost estimate category, many agencies did not include mandated elements, such as total work years, and did not distinguish between expenses for business processes and technology, auditors said.

GAO recommended that OMB and Treasury determine which agencies are required to report under the Data Act and develop controls and processes to better oversee governmentwide implementation of the law. GAO also recommended that they request updated plans from non-CFO Act agencies.

Treasury officials deferred to OMB, which generally concurred with the recommendations.

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