Reintroduced DATA Act Aims to Curb Federal Waste and Fraud

Published: May 22, 2013

OMBPolicy and LegislationWaste, Fraud, and Abuse

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) formally introduced the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, known as the DATA Act, on May 21st to the House and the Senate.

The Data Act, would require agencies to use standard formats to share internal and external federal spending information and make it available on a searchable web platform.  The legislation calls for Treasury to establish the data standards in consultation with OMB, GSA, and the heads of federal agencies, and to make the data publicly accessible in a bulk, machine-readable format via an improved site.

The DATA Act originally made its debut in 2012 where it passed the House in April of last year, but died in the Senate after only one hearing.  Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced similar legislation in the Senate in September. 

The Obama administration is also promoting open data by way of an executive order issued to agencies on May 9th.  However, the purpose and focus of the executive order is to promote continued job growth, government efficiency, and the social good by making federal data more open and widely accessible, whereas the DATA Act is aimed specifically at federal spending transparency and accountability.

The last time around, the Obama administration did not support the DATA Act, complaining that it would create a new set of regulations and rules, and would add more complexity and burden on agencies.  Changes have been made to the legislation since the original 2012 draft, but it is unclear whether or not it will garner support from the White House.   

The bill is backed by the Data Transparency Coalition headed by Hudson Hollister, former counsel to Issa’s committee, and has support of Eric Cantor (R-VA), House majority leader.  The legislation is also backed by government watchdog, the Sunlight Foundation who promotes greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens.   

Whether the act passes or not, the administration will continue to pursue transparency as a way to stimulate innovation, increase efficiency and reduce waste.  Contractors, grant recipients, and agencies should expect financial reporting requirements to persist and even increase in order to add transparency across government spending and decrease waste, fraud, and abuse.