Sneak Preview: DATA Act Compliance Is Vital for OIG Reviews

August 25, 2017 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) As engagement teams from federal agency Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) this fall review how well the agencies are reporting financial information in compliance with data standards established under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) (Pub. L. 113-101), a key federal official stressed the importance of making sure all staff at federal agencies and their OIGs fully understand the DATA Act’s requirements.

Speaking to attendees recently at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Governmental Accounting and Auditing Update in Washington, D.C., Andrea Smith, director of fiscal service audits at the Treasury Department OIG, said that successful implementation of the DATA Act will require both federal agency and OIG staff overcoming numerous potential challenges. She emphasized that federal agency staff should be “actively engaged in complying” with the DATA Act’s reporting requirements. “We’d like to encourage not just the OIG communities, but their agencies as well, to participate in the DATA Act implementation efforts and understand all the requirements that are necessary,” she said.

Under Section 6 of the DATA Act, OIGs are required to conduct an agency review of DATA Act compliance every two years, in consultation with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and report the results to Congress. OIG engagement teams must review a statistically valid sample of spending data submitted by each federal agency and report to Congress on the “completeness, timeliness, quality and accuracy of the data sampled,” as well as “the implementation and use of data standards by the federal agency,” according to the act. OIGs must submit the first of three reviews to Congress by Nov. 8, and will issue subsequent reports in November 2019 and November 2021.

Completeness is measured in two ways: (1) all transactions that should have been recorded are recorded in the proper reporting period, and (2) as the percentage  of transactions containing all applicable data elements required by the DATA Act. Timeliness is measured as the percentage of transactions reported within 30 days of quarter end. Accuracy is measured as the percentage of transactions that are complete and agree with the systems of record or other authoritative sources. Quality is defined as a combination of utility, objectivity and integrity. In this case, utility refers to the usefulness of the information to the intended users; objectivity refers to whether the disseminated information is being presented in an accurate, clear, complete and unbiased manner; and integrity refers to the protection of information from unauthorized access or revision.

The scope for the initial review is second quarter data (Jan. 1 – March 31) of federal fiscal year 2017 because that is the first available data being reported under the DATA Act. In subsequent reporting cycles, OIGs will select a statistically valid sample from a full fiscal year set of data.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site.)

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