Government spending data needs to be standardized, publicized and analyzed was the message from a panel of experts hosted Dec. 16 by the Advisory Committee on Transparency and the Sunlight Foundation.
The event, which discussed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act and other open data measures, pinpointed problems in the federal government’s open data policy and sought solutions for its future.
“Spending information is what’s for dinner…the government is not making that information available to citizens and not making it useful,” said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition.
Currently, government spending data is not complete, not accurate and not searchable. The data is also divided among agencies, according to Hollister.
The answer, the panelists hope, is partly the DATA Act. The bill, now in its fifth reiteration without passage, would require agencies to report their data to one public website, where it would be easily searchable.
“What [the government] doesn’t know now is that technology is not that complicated or expensive…There are a lot of good people in government and a lot of desire [for the bill,] but it’s hard,” said Nancy DiPaolo, chief of congressional and intergovernmental affairs for the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board.
DiPaolo worked on recovery.gov and other websites to try to make the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 more transparent. Her board recommended the government adopt measures similar to the DATA Act.
The 2013 DATA Act passed the House by a vote of 388 to 1 on Nov. 18. However, it is unlikely the Senate will bring up the issue with the session ending Dec. 20.
Part of the reason the panel thought the bill did not pass was its lack of saliency in the public eye.
“It’s not the sexiest issue,” Hollister said.