The DATA Act
After our first two iterations of Clearspending, the House Oversight Committee convened two hearings on the subject of federal spending data quality. The second hearing included the introduction of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011 (or DATA Act). The DATA act contains provisions for expanded federal spending reporting and data standardization, as well as validation against secondary sources. The House version also contains a provision for a separate commission to monitor the quality of federal spending data.
As our results demonstrate, the vast increase in programs that do not report to USASpending.gov at all is a troubling trend. The lack of oversight is resulting in lower and lower quality spending data and less transparency. Additionally, another source of federal spending data, the Consolidate Federal Funds Report, was defunded and discontinued this year. More and more, USASpending.gov is becoming the consolidated source for this data, yet there have been no steps taken to improve it's quality.
In September, Senators Warner and Portman introduced a Senate version of the bill. The Senate version removes the independent commission dedicated to data quality and replaces it with an executive board. It also assigns responsibility for data standardization to the Treasury Department and expands the types of expenditures that should be included in USASpending.gov. While the House bill was passed unanimously, the Senate version awaited consideration until the end of the end of the 112th Congress. The bill must now be reintroduced in the 113th Congress and voted on in both chambers to proceed to the President's desk for signing. You can read more about the DATA Act here.
How does the federal government report its spending?
The flow of federal spending reporting can get complicated. We've tried to simplify it for you with a step-by-step visualization.
How did we conduct our analysis and what assumptions did we make? What limitations exist with the comparison data we're using? We measured the data across three categories:
- Consistency: A comparison of CFDA obligations and USASpending.gov obligations.
- Completeness: A measure of how many required fields are completed.
- Timeliness: A measure of how quickly obligations were reported.
See our methodology for more information.