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The Evolution of Government Financial Transparency

You’ve probably heard something about the DATA Act, the first U.S. open data law that requires all federal agencies to standardize and publish their spending reports. However, do you know how that Act came about? More importantly, do you know how and when it will be achieved?

Below we offer a brief timeline to offer you a better understanding of governmental financial transparency initiatives, now and in future:

July 4, 1966 – Freedom of Information Act
Commonly referred to as FOIA, the Act grants citizens the right to request any information, including details on spending, from the federal government.

November 15, 1990 – Chief Financial Officer and Federal Financial Reform Act
The CFO Act requires large federal agencies to prepared audited financial statements and report detailed account balances to the Treasury Department.

September 26, 2006 – Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act
As part of this act, OMB was required to publish summaries of federal grants and contracts on a new USASpending.gov website.

June 13, 2011 – Digital Accountability and Transparency Act introduced
Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the first version of the DATA Act, which would require all federal spending information to be standardized and published.

May 9, 2014 – DATA Act is signed into law
The Act passed both houses of Congress unanimously.

May 9, 2015 – Data standards released
The standards for financial data reporting was created by the Treasury Department and OMB. These standards include common data elements and a common data form.

Now that you’ve read our brief history of government financial transparency, you’re probably wondering what’s next. There are a few more developments that we can expect. OMB’s pilot program for testing data standards and at-large agency reporting of financial data should begin in May 2017. The following year, full publication of spending data will begin on USASpending.gov and, three months later, OMB will have to decide whether to require all federal grantees and contractors will report their information using new standards.

But that’s just what you’ll see in the news. In reality, a lot more work needs to be done to accomplish the DATA Act’s vision of full financial transparency for government. What’s more, these ambitious goals can only be realized through close collaboration between Congressional supporters, lead implementers at the Treasury Department and the White House, agencies, recipients of federal funds, and the tech industry.

Luckily, the Data Transparency Coalition recognizes the need for continued collaboration and dialogue. Therefore, the organization is hosting its second annual DATA Act Summit on June 9th.

On June 9th, Coalition members will demonstrate their solutions on Capitol Hill. On June 10th, government and industry leaders will gather at the Washington Convention Center to collaborate on the transformation of federal spending.

Want to get involved? Join us at the summit!

 

 

Photo Credit: Flickr/Canned Muffins

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