Agency Spending Data Does Not Yet Meet DATA Act Requirements

Published: July 26, 2018

Forecasts and SpendingOMBPolicy and Legislation

GAO found that most agencies are unable to provide federal spending data that is “complete, timely, accurate, or of quality.”

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), passed in 2014, promises to lend visibility into the world of federal spending by linking agency expenditures to federal programs, establishing government-wide financial data standards, and providing consistent, reliable, and searchable government-wide spending data on

The act mandates that GAO and agency Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs) monitor implementation progress.  In its most recent report, GAO interviewed OIGs and reviewed 53 agency OIG reports to determine data quality and use of data standards among the agencies.  GAO also looked at audit standards used by the OIGs in their reviews of DATA Act spending data, and any actions taken or planned by Treasury and OMB to use OIG findings in their monitoring of agency implementation.  

Based on GAO’s review of OIG reports, it found that only 15 of the 53 agencies had spending data that was considered complete, timely, accurate, or of quality. Most agencies, 38 out of 53, had data that was not complete, timely, accurate, or of quality, this includes 18 of the 24 CFO Act agencies. Some of the data deficiencies were caused by the Treasury broker (the system that collects and validates agency-submitted data) which was outside the agencies’ control.  However, other errors “may have been caused by agency-specific control deficiencies.”

GAO also found that 27 agencies met OMB and Treasury requirements for data standard usage while 23 agencies did not. Three OIG reports did not include an evaluation of their agencies’ usage of data standards. GAO also determined that the OIGs used valid auditing standards in their reviews and reports, however the files they used for their analyses varied based on data availability from their agencies. Due to these variations, a government-wide error rate could not be calculated.

GAO did not make recommendations in its report, however the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) commented that GAO’s analysis gives OIGs useful information on their reporting responsibilities and efforts to provide DATA Act implementation oversight.