Senate Approves DATA Act, Final Passage Expected Soon
On Thursday, April 10, the Senate approved the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) by unanimous consent. The Senate action follows weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations between House and Senate supporters, and the approved bill represents a compromise between the two chambers. The House, which previously approved another version of the DATA Act by a 388-1 vote in November, is expected to give final approval to the bill in the next few weeks.
The DATA Act is designed to increase transparency and accountability of federal grants, contracts, and government spending. The bill would require that all government spending be published and publicly available on USASpending.gov. To achieve this objective, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would be required to develop standardized government-wide data elements to ensure uniformity of reporting requirements.
The administrative burden of complying with the DATA Act requirements will fall primarily on federal agencies. Provisions in the legislation requires federal agencies to submit grant financial information to USASpending.gov, therefore, grant recipients and pass-through entities should not see an increase in reporting requirements. Grant recipients may, however, see an increase in financial monitoring as federal awarding agencies will be required to track every federal dollar. This requirement may require grant recipients to improve accounting procedures and internal controls.
The White House has not announced President Obama’s position on the legislation. In January, a memo from OMB to agency leaders regarding the DATA Act was leaked to the media. In the memo, OMB proposed significant changes to the legislation, which bill supporters claimed were attempts to severely weaken the bill. The final version of the bill does not contain the proposed changes that OMB supported. With such overwhelming and bipartisan support from Congress, it is almost certain the bill will become law.
Washington Post reporter Andrea Peterson wrote a fantastic article summarizing the practical implications of the DATA Act. Her article, “The DATA Act Just Passed the Senate. Here’s Why that Matters.” can be read here.