Performance czar asks agencies to spruce up spending data

Jeffrey Zients is spearheading the effort. Jeffrey Zients is spearheading the effort. Jennifer Trezza
The Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday released guidance aimed at increasing both the quantity and quality of federal spending data available to the public.

The memorandum from Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients outlines steps for agencies to gather and report new types of information, enhance the timeliness and accuracy of data, and improve the technical capabilities of USAspending.gov.

The memo stated that by Oct. 1, agencies must collect and publish data on subcontractors and subrecipients of grants. Formerly, spending data was required only for prime contractors and grant recipients. Both prime and subrecipients now will be expected to report on applicable grants, contracts and awards within 30 days. In addition to providing their name, the amount received, the work being done and other standard information, some subrecipients must report the names and total compensation of their five highest paid officers.

The memo applies to grants, contracts, and task and delivery orders awarded after Oct. 1. Some contract vehicles will have to be modified to require subaward reporting, however.

In July, OMB will issue a blueprint, or enterprise architecture, for collection of subaward information.

"As a guiding principle, OMB will look to build off existing platforms in developing an integrated approach in order to ease burden and leverage existing investments (e.g., FederalReporting.gov, the Electronic Subcontractor Reporting System, etc.)," Zients wrote.

Agencies will have until December to comply with the requirements outlined in the architecture guidance, including necessary system modifications and testing.

The memo also requires agencies to improve federal spending information already reported. "The goal is to move toward 100 percent of awards data being reported on time, complete and accurate (free of error) by the end of fourth quarter fiscal 2011, with interim milestones," he noted.

Agencies will establish a data quality framework for spending information -- including a governance structure, risk assessments, control activities, communication strategy and monitoring program -- and submit their plan to OMB. Zients said OMB will work with agencies to establish baseline metrics on the timeliness, completeness and accuracy of data submitted to USAspending.gov. Agencies then will be required to submit supplementary plans on how they will meet those goals.

Progress on the data quality front is expected quickly, with agency plans due to OMB by April 14. Agencies must achieve at least a 10 percent improvement in data quality for each established metric quarterly, beginning in fiscal 2011. Data on agencies' progress will be published on a dashboard and on USAspending.gov.

As the Obama administration works to improve data, USAspending.gov will get a makeover. In coordination with the General Services Administration, OMB this spring will launch a USAspending.gov platform based in the cloud, meaning the information technology services will be delivered over the Internet. The new site will "enhance the usability of the information posted and accommodate the significant future growth expected for the site, including subaward reporting." The new site also will include dashboards for presentation of data by agency, recipient or location. Raw data will be more easily downloadable so members of the public can perform their own analyses, Zients said. Within the next few weeks, OMB will establish a USAspending.gov Control Board to coordinate the policies and systems governing federal spending transparency. The board will include: federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, who will represent the technology community; OMB Controller Danny Werfel, who will represent the financial management and grants community; and Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Daniel Gordon, who will represent the contracting community.

"The board will ensure that the USAspending.gov system meets the intent of the Transparency Act and considers the needs and interests of the functional communities, such as contracts, grants, and loans communities," Zients wrote. "The functional owners will consult with their community advisers to ensure their interests are adequately and accurately reflected."

Zients said the government's experience with the stimulus-tracking site Recovery.gov has made it clear that efforts to improve transparency must include consideration of the costs and benefits of various approaches and their effects on the many stakeholders involved in the federal spending process.

"OMB will ask for ideas and recommendations on how interested parties outside the government and the various professional disciplines within the government -- policy, budget and appropriations, procurement, finance, and technology operations -- can best work together to define and develop a long-range vision for optimal transparency," he wrote.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.