Oversight seeks answers from Treasury on DATA Act implementation

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The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants to know how the Treasury Department is tackling problems that crop up during implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014.

Agencies were to begin submitting by May 9 the standardized spending information required by the law, but a recent watchdog report warned that 26 federal inspectors general reported their agencies were experiencing challenges. And a few inspectors general said their agencies were not on track to meet the deadline or would not report complete data by then.

So the committee asked Treasury in a letter this week to address some of the recommendations the Government Accountability Office made in that report.

“While there is strong reason to be optimistic that the DATA Act can and will achieve its goals, there are ongoing implementation challenges that threaten its success,” the letter reads. “The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently reported, for example, widespread and longstanding financial management issues that present risks to agencies’ abilities to submit quality data as required by the DATA Act.”

The GAO also said OIGs from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of the Interior and U.S. International Trade Commission said they were not on track to meet the requirements, and that OIGs from the Department of Defense and Environmental Protection Agency said they would not submit complete data by the deadline.

Data from these agencies is available online, and a Treasury official confirmed to FedScoop that these agencies were able to meet the deadline.

“We’ve noted that we expect gaps in some of the data and we will be better positioned to assess and strengthen data quality moving forward (as this is the first time all of the data is being brought together),” the official added via email.

Regarding the GAO report, Christina Ho, deputy assistant Treasury secretary for accounting policy and financial transparency, recently noted at an event that, “the report is done at a point in time, so there are a lot of things that could have happened after the audit.”

Ho told FedScoop via email the department is “committed to working with agencies to continue to improve the data quality over time based on various feedback channels.”

In the letter to Treasury, the Oversight Committee asks specifically for an update on how the department is working to address these recommendations from GAO:

  1. Establish a set of clear policies and processes for developing and maintaining data standards that are consistent with leading practices for data governance.
  2. Accelerate efforts to determine how best to merge DATA Act purposes and requirements to produce a federal program inventory.
  3. Provide agencies with additional guidance to address potential clarity, consistency or quality issues with the definitions for specific data elements including Award Description and Primary Place of Performance, and that they clearly document and communicate these actions to agencies providing this data as well as to end-users.
  4. Establish or leverage processes to determine the complete population of agencies that are required to report spending data under the DATA Act.
  5. Establish mechanisms to assess the results of independent audits and reviews of agencies’ compliance with the DATA Act requirements, including those of agency inspectors general, to help inform full implementation of the act’s requirements across government.

The committee asked that by May 22, the agency send information on its “actions to date and a timeline for when key activities will take place to fully address the recommendations.”

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DATA Act, GAO, House Oversight and Government Reform
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