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DATA Act: Greater Federal Funding Transparency, Accountability

by Cherrise Wilks on December 26, 2013
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Binary code on a globe with sunlit horizon representing digital transparency and the U.S. DATA Act"American taxpayers deserve to be able to access information about how their money is being spent." - U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, 49th District California

Last month, the House of Representatives adopted H.R. 2061, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), introduced by Congressman Darrell Issa. The bill aims to make federal spending more accessible, increase the availability of the data to the public, and improve oversight of federal funding. The legislation is also intended to offer a way to track federal spending, reduce compliance costs, improve transparency, prevent fraud, and improve the quality of data submitted on www.USASpending.gov

Additionally, USASpending.gov can serve as a beneficial tool for grantees and contractors. The redesigned website is intended to make it easier to find out which not-for-profits, public entities, companies, contractors, and vendors receive funding from the federal government, thus reducing the amount of administrative time it takes to research trends in federal spending, or seek copies of proposals. The information collected from recipients of federal funds can provide a wealth of information, making it easier to identify opportunities to partner or subcontract, craft well-written proposals designed to win government contracts, and foster opportunities to identify evidence-based programs for replication.

Three major components of the bill include:

  • Expansion of the 2006 Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA Act).
  • Reauthorization of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RATB) until September 30, 2017.
  • Revisions to several sections of the 2009 Recovery Act with a new expiration date of December 30, 2013.

Expansion of the FFATA Act

The DATA Act amends the FFATA Act definition of federal funds and provides the U.S. Secretary of Treasury oversight of federal spending reported on USASpending.gov. This change means that all recipients of federally funded contracts, loans, and grants must disclose expenditures to enable taxpayers and policy makers to track federal spending on USASpending.gov. In addition, the U.S. Secretary of Treasury will maintain oversight of all spending, but will consult with the Office of Management and Budget as necessary.

Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RATB)

The RATB was created in 2009 with former and current inspectors general tasked to provide oversight of Recovery Act spending. The board membership was set to expire September 30, 2013. Under the bill, the board remains intact and will not expire until September 30, 2017, under the DATA Act.

The board is to develop recommendations for reducing reporting by consolidating and automating federal financial reporting, and they must establish a three-year pilot program with recipients of federal funds to track spending, which will be reported on USASpending.gov.

2009 Recovery Act revisions

Previously, the Recovery Act was set to expire on September 30, 2013. According to the Recovery Board, there was an increase in non-compliance with Recovery Act reporting for quarter 3 in 2013 (ending Sept. 2013). Recipients of Recovery Act funds cited that Section 1512 reports were not filed timely because the Recovery Act expired on September 30, 2013, and the government shutdown prevented the submission of reports. As a result, the DATA Act contains language that resets the expiration date for Recovery Act reporting to that of December 30, 2013, unless it is amended by the Senate version of the bill (S.994).

In the next installment, I will explore the implications of the DATA Act on recipients of federal funds, such as administrative burden.

About the Author

Cherrise L. Wilks is a seasoned grant administrator with over 11 years of experience working with nonprofits and state and local government, including the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida House of Representatives, and the City of Jacksonville. Ms. Wilks serves as the Grants Specialist for the City of Tampa, as CEO of Logistics Business Consulting Group, and as President of Affinity Consulting Group. Her expertise includes securing over $24 million in federal, state, and private grants. She has a bachelor of science degree in Family, Child & Consumer Sciences from the Florida State University and a Master’s of Public Administration from the University of North Florida.

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