The Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department need to improve how they review agencies’ preparation for the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act implementation, according to a government watchdog group.
The DATA Act calls for agencies to publish standardized spending and financial data by May 2018, but poor planning and monitoring by OMB and Treasury has hurt some agencies’ likelihood of meeting that goal, according to a Government Accountability Office audit published Friday.
So far, the two agencies have not determined the “complete population of agencies” who are required to report their data and have not fully designed or implemented controls for reviewing each agency’s plan to carry out the DATA Act. As a result, agencies have reported challenges like unclear guidance, time frames that are too short and a lack of resources when dealing with planning.
“Lacking fully documented controls and processes as well as a complete population of agencies that are required to report under the DATA Act increases the risk that the purposes and benefits of the DATA Act may not be fully achieved, and could result in incomplete spending data being reported,” the report says.
Implementation of the DATA Act has come under scrutiny before. U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro acknowledged at the end of 2014 how much work would need to get done to achieve the law’s goals.
“I think that Treasury and OMB and the agencies are off to a good start,” Dodaro said at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that year. He added, “They’re laying the initial framework. There is a long way to go before they’re going to have the standards in place.”
[Read more: The delicate, deliberate delivery of the DATA Act]
OMB and Treasury created 51 common elements agencies must use in their implementation, like costs, narrative and timeline. But of the 42 implementation plans GAO received, none of them contained all of these elements. For example, 52 percent of agencies did not include planning cost estimates, while 42 percent did not include a detailed and required narrative about the steps of implementations.
“In addition, without updated implementation plans from all agencies required to report under the DATA Act… OMB and Treasury may not have complete information to properly monitor resource needs and progress in implementing new requirements government-wide,” the report says.
The GAO recommends the two agencies to determine the population of agencies required to file, establish “full documented controls and processes” and require non-CFO Act agencies to submit updated plans for the DATA Act. OMB generally concurred with the recommendations but did argue that agencies themselves are responsible for figuring out where they fall under the DATA Act.
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