{"htmlFragment": "\n\n\n\n\n \n \n \n \n \n\n \n\n \n \n \n \n \n \n\n Agencies Continue to Struggle With Accurate Spending Reports, Underreporting by Billions - Nextgov\n\n \n \n\n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n \n \n \n \n \n\n \n\n \n \n \n\n \n \n \n \n \n \n \n \n \n \n \n \n \n\n \n \n \n \n\n \n\n\n \n \n \n\n \n \n\n \n \n \n\n \n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n \n \n\n \n \n \n \n\n \n\n \n \n\n\n\n\n\n \n\n \n \n \n\n \n \n \n \n\n \n\n\n\n\n\n \n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n \n\n \n \n \n\n\n\n \n\n \n\n \n\n\n \n\n \n \n\n \n \n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n \n\n \n \n\n\n \n \n\n\n\n\n \n\n \n \n\n \n\n \n
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Agencies Continue to Struggle With Accurate Spending Reports, Underreporting by Billions

\n Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock.com\n

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\n \n \n \n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n By\n\nMohana Ravindranath,
Staff Correspondent
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Months after they were required to make their financial data public, their reports are rife with errors.

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Most federal agencies are required by law to have uploaded their financial data on USASpending.gov, but complying with the federal transparency law has been a little messy, watchdog reports show.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, known as the DATA Act, required agencies make their spending data available to the public online by May 2017. The yearly spending\u2014about $3.7 trillion\u2014is displayed on Beta.USAspending.gov. The act also tasks the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget with overseeing agency reports, and\u00a0requires agencies\u2019 inspectors general to assess the quality of the data they upload.

Across the board, agencies have uploaded incomplete data or failed to establish a certification process ensuring that the data was accurate.

The Government Accountability Office, in its first review of data quality, also dinged OMB and Treasury, concluding less than 1 percent of agencies\u2019 reported grants, contracts and loans were consistent with information obtained from authoritative sources within the agency. That\u2019s actually a decrease in inconsistency\u00a0from what GAO found in 2014, when it estimated between 2 and 7 percent of award data was consistent.

Overall, budgetary data, including appropriations, was more consistent, but the grants, contracts and loan errors may have omitted a significant chunk of federal spending, GAO concluded. Information from about 160 financial assistance programs, covering about $80.8 billion, were completely omitted from reports. About 13 agencies, including the Defense and Agriculture departments, submitted files that purported to connect budgetary data to award spending, but didn\u2019t provide any data, GAO concluded.

GAO recommended OMB and Treasury clarify guidance for what to report and also to be up front about any data quality issues. They generally agreed with the recommendations.

Agency IGs were required to file own their assessments of second quarter spending data by Nov. 8. Some highlights:

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  • The Housing and Urban Development Department didn\u2019t comply by the May 2017 deadline, and underreported \u201c$17.9 billion in incurred obligations, $16.9 billion in outlays, and $4.2 billion in apportionments,\u201d the OIG found. The failure to comply could be due to limited resources for DATA Act implementation and a lack of governance for the various HUD components submitting data to USASpending.gov.
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  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission uploaded its data in time, but included errors attributable in part to \u201cdata supplied by systems outside CPSC control\u201d and data entry problems.
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  • The Justice Department uploaded timely data, but sometimes was \u201cnoncompliant with standards\u201d for the quality of that data, the OIG found. Sometimes financial data was not linked to awards information, and a \u201clegacy accounting system\u201d led to other reporting challenges.
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  • The Railroad Retirement Board: had \u201cfew, if any\u201d procedures in place to validate the data it submitted, and senior officials did not adequately outline that process.
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  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn\u2019t comply with the DATA Act because the Treasury\u2019s system couldn\u2019t \u201cidentify or separate the USACE procurement award, grant award, awardee and sub-award data from the DoD data,\u201d the report said. The Pentagon component also could not\u00a0\"ensure the completeness, accuracy, and quality of financial data certified and submitted for publication.\u201d
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  • The State Department-hired auditing firm Kearney couldn\u2019t assess overseas transactions, so it was unable to fully assess compliance. For domestic data, Kearney found that\u00a064.4 percent of the domestic transactions it explained \u201cdid not meet the quality requirements outlined by OMB,\u201d and that \u201c[t]hese errors were within the control of the Department.\u201d
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  • At NASA, there were minor errors with accuracy, despite timely upload. The agency struggled with reporting some\u00a0\"legal entity\u2019s name, address, primary place of performance, or highly compensated officer names,\u201d the OIG found. Some of those errors could be traced to databases containing outdated information and manual errors.
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