Have you heard of the Data Act? It unanimously passed through the House and now is sitting in committee in the Senate.
The legislation, "is Congress' attempt to achieve full federal spending transparency that would build off the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board's (RAT) success," said Hudson Hollister the executive director of the the Data Transparency Coalition. They've put together a paper on the legislation: Data Reform for the Procurement Reporting: Can we streamline compliance while enhancing accountability?
The RAT board project was the first time we had federal spending information from multiple departments combined into one federal database. "That meant for stimulus spending we had better oversight and accountability and less scandal than ever before," said Hollister.
But the Data Act has it's share of problems like...
- Would the government create a new entity to oversee the reporting or would they using an existing entity?
- How much will the extra transparency cost?
- Will the reporting be too burdensome?
Hollister said the real issue is the extra reporting, "State and local governments as well as universities are justified with their concerns. Right now they have to report their spending to dozens of different departments and agencies. If the Data Act passes they would have to add another burdensome layer."
Could standardization be the solution?
"If the federal government adopted consistent identifiers and electronic languages for the information it collections about grants and contracts then it would be possible for those state and local governments to automatically report the information when its due. Right now they have to do each report manually," said Hollister.
The OMB effect
"Should be something we should just do. But the trouble is when it comes to standardization there is no leadership. The Office of Management and Budget has not led here and is in fact resisting the Data Act," said Hollister, "part of the problem is that OMB doesn't have a deep bench. They're not technologically capable of doing the hard work that's necessary."
Here's a video they put together on the Data Act.
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