How Data Analytics and the DATA Act Are Working To Tackle Improper Payments

April 27, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

binary-code-1-1159613-mWe recently attended a forum on data analytics recently hosted by the Data Coalition. So, what do data analytics have to do with grants? It could mean a lot.

Federal agencies are using data to evaluate federal programs to address concerns such as improper payments and fraud. Conducting data analytics on such information such as eligibility can help ensure that beneficiaries that are not eligible under a federal program may not receive assistance, thus reducing erroneous payments. However, the key issue now is simply trying to get to the point where the data can actually be evaluated. Much of the current human resource effort now in federal agency data management is spent just to clean the data, in essence, weeding out incorrect and missing information so that the correct data can be properly addressed. A recent report by MITRE Corporation found that agency officials are spending 80 percent of their data evaluation efforts on the data cleaning process.

Panel members during the forum said that the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) could be a boon to the data analytics effort by providing uniform data standards that would help allow for data to be more consistent, thus requiring less data cleaning. “To the extent that we can make that upfront work happen beforehand [through consistent data standards], that allows us and other oversight organizations to focus on analytics rather than determining how the data is defined, which is how we spend most of our time now,” said Vijay D’Souza, director for the Government Accountability Office’s Center for Enhanced Analytics.

Federal agencies are required under the DATA Act to implement the data standards by May 2017. Whether they can meet that deadline remains to be seen. However, as most agencies prepare to reach that goal, the quality of data should become more useful, and hopefully down the line, data analytics will help the government reduce the level of fraud and improper payments currently hampering some federal programs.

Let us know your feelings about data analytics and the DATA Act. We’d love to hear from you.

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