USASpending.gov Meets Most Open Data Requirements But Has Room for Improvement
Published: December 20, 2018
A GAO analysis of USASpending.gov in relationship to best practices for open data and transparent reporting revealed that the site aligns with most key practices and search requirements, but not all.
The recently released GAO report was conducted in conjunction with DATA Act requirements that task Treasury with collecting and presenting open data on the federal government’s annual spending of approximately $4 trillion. GAO identified key practices for transparency and open data, and compared USASpending.gov against these principles.
Key open data and transparency principles as identified by GAO include:
- Provide free and unrestricted data
- Engage with users
- Provide data in useful formats
- Fully describe the data
- Facilitate data discovery for all users
GAO found that the site was consistent with all key open data practices except “fully describing the data.” The report states that USAspending.gov does not fully reflect this key practice, because “the website does not provide structured metadata.” Metadata is the structured, descriptive information about a dataset in a machine-readable format. Providing this information is an OMB requirement. Additionally, the website does not completely disclose data quality issues and there is no comprehensive licensing information for the data on the site and how it can be used.
Treasury meets the other open data key principles allowing users to download the entire dataset for free, engaging users via interviews and hackathons, providing detailed, machine-readable data in standardized formats, and facilitating data discovery by providing tools such as interactive maps and visualizations.
GAO recommends Treasury establish a process to ensure that additions to USAspending.gov meet security requirements, provide structured metadata and licensing information on the website, and ensure that users can search for awards by city and program source as required by law. Treasury agreed with GAO’s recommendations.