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GAO: OMB, Treasury Don't Monitor DATA Act Enough

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Federal agencies may not comply with financial transparency laws if they're not tracked closely, a watchdog report finds.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, often called the DATA Act, directs federal agencies to start making their spending data public and easily accessible by May 2017. The Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department have been tasked with overseeing that act’s implementation but haven’t fully documented agency progress, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

Last year, OMB announced agencies were supposed to submit their implementation plans by September 2015. As of July 2016, OMB and Treasury didn't have a complete list of all the agencies required to report spending under the act, nor a set of current implementation plans from the agencies required to submit one, GAO found.

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Without up-to-date DATA Act implementation plans from agencies, “it is unclear” if OMB and Treasury have enough information to help agencies comply by the roll-out deadline, the report said. And without full documentation of their progress, OMB and Treasury “increase the risk... [that] the DATA Act may not be fully achieved and could result in incomplete spending data being reported."

GAO examined 42 implementation plans from various agencies and found none had all the elements OMB and Treasury required. For instance, some agencies' cost estimates were missing work years and a list of assumptions.

The watchdog group recommended OMB and Treasury determine which agencies need to report spending data under the act, and fully document their implementation plans, among other steps.

OMB generally concurred with the recommendations, though it "maintains that each agency is responsible for determining whether it is subject to the DATA Act," according to GAO. Treasury said it would defer to OMB on monitoring adoption plans. 

The report comes a few months after OMB and Treasury faced congressional scrutiny for potentially missing the deadline for implementation. In an April House oversight hearing, OMB Controller David Mader said he “couldn’t tell you today” the 24 agencies required to comply with the DATA Act were going to make it by May 2017.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget request set aside $55 million for the implementation of the DATA Act.

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