White House Pushes Weaker Version of Spending Transparency Bill

Charles Dharapak/AP

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The revised DATA Act could make it more difficult to track spending across agencies.

The White House would like to roll back some transparency requirements in House-passed legislation that would standardize how the government records and publishes spending information, according to documents obtained by Federal News Radio.

The proposed changes to the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act include removing a requirement that agencies publish spending information using common data standards so watchdogs, businesses and others could easily track spending across agencies. Instead the White House version would require agencies to use open data practices so that information is public but may be less likely to be consistent.

The White House version also would require agencies to report information quarterly rather than monthly and would put the White House’s Office of Management and Budget in charge of implementing the new law rather than the Treasury Department.

OMB gave agencies a copy of the revised bill and asked them to report back with comments the same day, Federal News Radio reported.

The DATA Act passed the House nearly unanimously in November. The Senate version of the law, sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., was passed out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November and is awaiting a hearing by the full Senate.

The Data Transparency Coalition, a strong DATA Act proponent, called the White House version a step backward and said it would not support that version if it was substituted for the version currently awaiting action in the Senate.

"Unfortunately, OMB’s proposed revisions would nullify the bill's main purpose to standardize and publish government data, contrary to the clear consensus that has brought together both parties, both chambers, and advocacy groups across the political spectrum,” the Coalition said in a statement. “We cannot support the DATA Act if it becomes a dead letter. We hope that President Obama will clarify that he supports real reform that meets the principles expressed in his own Open Data Policy.”