In less than a year and a half the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, better known as the DATA Act, will require all US federal agencies to report their spending information to the American public. So why does it matter?
Passed with the intention of improving government financial transparency and reducing budget waste, the DATA Act is well on its way to achieving much more than planned.
In GovLoop’s recent online training, What the Data Act Means for the Future of Open Data, founder and Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition, Hudson Hollister, discussed what the DATA Act is and why it’s beneficial.
When the DATA Act takes full effect, where we are able to take all of federal spending, standardize it, and then publish it, there will be many benefits for citizens, federal agencies, and recipients of federal grants and federal contracts.
There are three key benefits of the DATA Act, according to Hollister:
Better accountability for citizens. Financial transparency hold agencies accountable for federal spending. Currently the federal budget website, usaspending.gov, only publishes some of the grant spending of federal agencies for the public to view. With the DATA Act, agencies must publish all of their internal and external spending, including employee salaries.
The standard format required for that reporting will also bring together new visualizations of federal spending so that voters, media, and non-government organizations can more easily scrutinize politicians’ decisions. If citizens know where each of their tax dollars goes, federal spenders have to be smarter about their decisions, possibly reducing budget waste.
Better management for federal agencies. Currently, agencies have many different kinds of reporting requirements for spending and they aren’t able to relate internal stores of information to each other. When the DAtA Act’s data standards are put into place, agencies will be able to easily compare different spending reports from all different categories.
Because agencies won’t have to translate their data to run analytics reports they will save time and money, ultimately allowing for better management.
Better automated compliance for recipients of federal grants and federal contracts. If the federal government adopts consistent data standards for reports that must be submitted by recipients of federal grants and federal contracts, software can automatically gather information from those entities’ existing data systems and automatically compile reports.
This automated compliance will reduce manual labor, saving money and time.
To learn more about the DAT Act and how it affects you, view the online training here.