Senate Author of DATA Act Presses Agencies on Follow-Up

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va, asked agencies for updates. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va, asked agencies for updates. Susan Walsh/AP

As part of a broad push for improving reliability of the government’s financial statements, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., on Wednesday wrote to 37 agencies asking for updates on their efforts to standardize and publish spending data as required under the 2014 Data Accountability and Transparency Act.

Warner, who-co-authored the law along with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced his letter at a Senate Budget Committee hearing eliciting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro’s broader views on how to improve reliability of agency financial statements to achieve greater savings.

“When fully implemented, the DATA Act will set governmentwide financial reporting standards, and will make information about federal spending much more accessible and searchable, which is a great tool for both taxpayers and policymakers to identify duplication and waste and help prevent fraud,” said Warner, who was chairman of the Budget Committee’s bipartisan Government Performance Task Force from 2010-2015. “Passing legislation is just the first step, and I will continue to press administration and agency officials to move forward to effectively implement and fully leverage the results of this powerful new tool for fiscal transparency.”

Efforts by the Office of Management and Budget and Treasury Department to provide guidance to agencies—including compiling of 57 definitions of data—remain a work in progress, though White House Controller David Mader told a panel on Tuesday that updated guidance will come out in mid-May.

House chief author Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has been critical of agencies’ pace in structuring data to organize it into standardized, machine-searchable units to increase transparency to the public.

Warner told the agencies he recognized “the challenges that ongoing implementation of the law may present for agencies, including budget constraints, dependence on governmentwide guidance from the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury, and the complexity of incumbent systems and business processes. However, by prioritizing implementation of the law and fully leveraging its potential, I believe that the opportunities for your agency outweigh these challenges.”

Most agencies have responded to the OMB-Treasury “playbook” with implementation plans and appointment of a lead DATA Act official to oversee the data testing and inventory.

Warner asked agencies to report to him on the resources they spent on implementing the DATA act, the status of their implementation plan and the challenges they’ve encountered. He also requested copies of their plans and a forecast of future resource needs to make the DATA Act happen.

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