Jumbo-Sized Concern Over Proposed Reporting Requirements

June 15, 2011 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Amid all the pro-transparency, pro-accountability, anti-waste hoopla that has dominated the headlines (and our blog) concerning Rep. Daniel Issa’s  (R-Calif.) Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) bill and President Obama’s Campaign to Cut Waste initiative, the real white elephant in the room continues be overlooked. That would be the quarterly reporting requirements – and not just for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grantees, but for ALL grantees. I repeat, ALL!

Buckle up; this could be a bumpy ride! There seems to be a lot of support for these efforts.

Issa’s legislation would require all recipients of federal grants, contracts and loans to report their receipt and use of federal funds to a new Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board, which would be the permanent successor to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. Reporting, according to the bill, will take place at least quarterly. Excuse me, at least?!?

For their part, federal agencies would be required to report all obligations and expenditures of federal funds to the FAST Board. The FAST Board would allow agencies to comply by submitting the same data they already submit to existing government systems.

Not to be outdone, Obama signed an executive order establishing his waste-cutting initiative with includes creating a new oversight and accountability board staffed with federal officials that will work with the RATB to evaluate ways to cut government waste. It also directs Cabinet members to report on waste-cutting efforts to Vice President Joe Biden – now being called “Sheriff Joe.”

During a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Tuesday on Issa’s bill, Nevada State Controller Kim Wallin, treasurer of the National Association of Comptrollers, addressed the states’ plight should Congress pass expanded reporting requirements. “A big concern from the states’ perspective to implement this new proposed legislation is the cost of compliance,” she said. “Besides asking for money to help the states comply with the additional reporting and oversight, we need to find a way to streamline and eliminate the redundant reporting and standardize the grant reporting requirements between all agencies.”

A good point – and oh, this could also mean changes to the OMB grants administrative circulars (let’s not forget them). Issa’s bill, if enacted, would take effect Oct. 1. Could a phased-in approach be adopted to enable states to build the capacity to meet the reporting requirements?

Don’t get me wrong; there are numerous aspects of Issa’s bill and Obama’s initiative that would definitely prove beneficial and be financially sound.  However, there are a lot of other issues to weigh in our efforts to cut waste and be more transparent. The white elephant is VERY heavy.

Am I overreacting here? What is your reaction to Issa’s legislation and the Obama Campaign to Cut Waste? Do you have compliance concerns as well? Let us know.

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