The DATA Act: Expanding Open Data and Transparency
Last week, I had the opportunity to present Management Concepts’ “Get Your DATA Act Together” webinar. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) is designed to enhance transparency of Federal spending by making all public spending, throughout the entire spending lifecycle, available to the public in a searchable and downloadable format.
In the webinar, we looked at how the DATA Act will affect the roles and job functions for anyone involved with awarding or reporting Federal spending.
- Federal employees will need to ensure spending data is accurate, consistent, and complete
- Federal financial officers will need to develop data analytic tools to synthesis their agency’s spending data and verify adequate controls are in place to guarantee the accuracy of submitted data
- Federal managers need to take the proper steps to train employees on the new spending data standards and that all employees understand their responsibilities under the DATA Act
- Grantees and contractors should review the 57 governmentwide financial data standards to understand the information that Federal awarding agencies will be collecting regarding their awards
Starting on May 8, 2017, all Federal agencies must begin reporting their spending data using the governmentwide financial data standards. In preparation of this deadline, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides frequent updates on implementation of the DATA Act. In the past month, GAO issued two reports:
- DATA Act: Improvements Needed in Reviewing Agency Implementation Plans and Monitoring Progress (GAO-16-698)
The GAO examined agency DATA Act implementation plans and found none of the 42 plans agencies submitted to OMB and the Department of the Treasury addressed all 51 plan elements found in implementation guidance. GAO recommended additional documented internal controls and processes to ensure agency implementation.
- DATA Act: Initial Observations on Technical Implementation (GAO-16-824R)
The GAO examined the implementation of the IT infrastructure to integrate Federal systems in accordance with the DATA Act. The GAO did not make recommendations in the report.
On August 12, 2016, Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies submitted their latest implementation plans to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The implementation plans discussed:
- Recent agency progress and milestones
- Anticipated additional costs to implementing the DATA Act
- Updated risks and a risk mitigation strategy
Hopefully the new implementation plans will alleviate the GAO’s concerns.
We also need to keep our eye on Congress. In addition to the DATA Act, Congress continues to look at ways to further expand open data requirements across the Federal government.
In May 2016, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary Government Data Act (OPEN Government Data Act). This legislation would codify Executive Order 13642, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information. The bill would require Federal agencies to:
- Make their enterprise data inventories available to the public in an open format on Data.gov
- Designate a point of contact to assist the public and respond to complaints about adherence to open data requirements
An identical bill has also been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has not taken any action yet.
The concepts of open data, accountability, and transparency are not new to the Federal government. These concepts have been a driving force for the Federal government for the last decade, and the DATA Act is an extension of those goals. Federal agency compliance with the DATA Act is just nine months away, and it guarantees to be an exciting time.