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Watchdog Finds Glitches in Governmentwide Effort to Track Spending Consistently

Move to post spending numbers ignored some traditional management practices.

A year after enactment of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, the Treasury Department as the lead implementing agency has shown progress toward getting agencies governmentwide to post consistent data on spending, an inspector general found.

But some lapses in tracking of workstreams suggest that planners view the vast project from too high an altitude, the IG said.

In the first of a series of audits, Treasury’s inspector general wrote of “concerns with Treasury’s project management practices that we believe could hinder the timely, comprehensive implementation of this program, if not addressed.” The governance structure worked out with the Office of Management and Budget and accompanying management documents “lack several key attributes called for by project management good practices,” the audit said. Treasury is seeking to harmonize agency data practices using a combination of “agile” and traditional workstream tracking practices that do not “fully reflect recognized artifacts, tools, and metrics for either an agile or traditional project management methodology.”

Some project plans were incomplete or not provided, the IG said in a letter to Fiscal Assistant Treasury Secretary David Lebryk. The watchdog noted that the lapses may be “due, in part, to the lack of definition surrounding the method of project management to be followed for each workstream.” Some of the issues -- assessed as of last October – have since been addressed.

Implementation of the long-sought DATA Act is being monitored by many in the transparency advocacy community, who are eager to see data on the governtmentwide USAspending.gov site made consistent and released in a format readily adaptable by businesses and nonprofits.

Treasury is working on establishing a data analysis center or adopting an existing service to “provide data analytic tools and data management techniques to support the prevention and reduction of improper payments by federal agencies and improve efficiency and transparency in federal spending,” the audit explained. That new entity would take over operations aimed at detecting waste, fraud and abuse using federal funds that has been the province of the operations center at the Recovery Board, which goes out of business Sept. 30.

The IG recommended that Treasury better define its project management methodology for each DATA Act workstream, building in use of proper progress metrics and planning tools for each.

Treasury agreed, and the IG acknowledged progress since the audit’s timeframe.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

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