Federal Government Takes Initial Steps Under DATA Act

May 20, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

binary-code-1-1159613-mThis month, the federal government has taken steps to comply with requirements under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). Although these actions will affect those on the federal level first over the next couple of years, the grants community as a whole should remain aware of what the federal government will be evaluating concerning standardized financial reporting in open, machine-readable formats.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) this month in a memorandum to federal agency heads issued guidance to help federal agencies comply with current reporting requirements under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), and prepare for new requirements under the DATA Act. The lack of interoperability between federal financial systems and data sources has hampered financial transparency. The DATA Act (Pub. L. 113-101) requires the development of governmentwide financial data standards to make it easier to compare spending across federal agencies and awards. It also calls for improved oversight and monitoring of posted federal spending data to ensure appropriate expenditure of federal funds and reduce instances of improper payments and fraud, waste and abuse.

The memo discusses requirements for continued award-level reporting under FFATA, new requirements for both agency-level and award-level reporting under the DATA Act, and the implementation of data standards for data published on USAspending.gov, or a successor site if one is established. Concerning DATA Act reporting requirements, the act requires Treasury, in consultation with OMB, to publish on USAspending.gov a report by May 9, 2017, of funds available to, or expended by, a federal agencies or component of the federal agency. The DATA Act also calls for reporting at the appropriations account level. This includes obligations and outlays by program activity and by object class. OMB will work with Treasury to assess the viability of current data collections to determine if new methods are necessary.

In addition, OMB and Treasury also have posted a list of 57 standard data definitions under the DATA Act. Agencies are required to use these standard data definitions to collect and report agency-level and award-level data by two years after their issuance (i.e., 2017). Fifteen data definitions have been finalized and 42 others are still under review. Furthermore, the act requires federal agencies to provide data to Treasury under a “data-centric” approach using a standard data exchange, known as the “DATA Act Schema.” The DATA Act Schema includes a standard taxonomy and standard format for exchanging data. The draft schema is available here.

Further, the Department of Health and Human Services has launched a governmentwide pilot to asses agency implementation of data standards on grant reporting. More information on the pilot can be found here.

We are working on a special report for the July issue of the Federal Grants Management Handbook on the latest related to the DATA Act. Subscribers can get a full wrapup and find out more about what this may mean for them. Stay tuned!

What do you think about the DATA Act? While it help relieve financial reporting burdens as it was intended? Let us know.  

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