OMB Watch Lauds the Introduction of DATA Act in the Senate

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2012—OMB Watch welcomed the introduction of a revised version of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act, in the Senate and commended Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) for working together on this important legislation. The DATA Act will provide an unprecedented level of transparency and create critical new tools to track and analyze federal spending and hold officials accountable for their decisions.

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Next Steps for Spending Transparency Revealed in Senate Hearing

At a Senate committee hearing on July 18, the Obama administration announced that it's putting Treasury payment data online, but members of the committee indicated that the government still has a way to go to establish satisfactory federal spending transparency. A legislative path forward, members suggested, will likely be a modified version of the House-passed Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act).

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GAO: New Contractor ID System Needed

When the federal government is handing out thousands of contracts to more than half a million contractors, it's important to have a robust system for tracking the companies that receive each contract. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on the federal government's use of a private, proprietary corporate identification system to track federal contractors and award recipients. Because corporations are continually acquiring new firms and/or merging with others, it is often difficult to keep track of which companies are actually responsible for the work the government has contracted out. The report recommended the government adopt a new approach to tracking this information.

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The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Spending Transparency Systems

As leaders of both parties in Congress obsess over cutting spending, it's no surprise that spending transparency has become an issue. Most recently, the House passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), a bill designed to increase the quantity, quality, and accessibility of federal spending information. The bill would be a leap forward in government openness, but it is only a beginning. A comprehensive system of federal spending transparency that enables citizens to hold government accountable must include a set of key elements, which we explore in this article.

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OMB Watch Applauds House Passage of DATA Act

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2012—OMB Watch today applauded the House passage of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act (H.R. 2146). The bill to strengthen the transparency of federal government spending was approved by a voice vote with strong bipartisan support.

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GAO Reports Defense Department Barely Moving toward a Comprehensive Service Contracts Database

Earlier in April, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the second in a series of new, congressionally mandated reports assessing the Department of Defense’s (DOD) efforts to compile an inventory of service contracts. Congress intends for the Pentagon to include these reviews in its yearly budget work and expects “inherently governmental work” currently performed by private contractors to be brought back “in-house.” This review process will help the Pentagon find ways to reduce costs and limit the over-reliance on contractors.

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States Releasing Information Online that Can Ensure Public Official Accountability

On March 19, OMB Watch released a new report that evaluates state and federal websites designed to ensure the accountability of public officials. The report, Upholding the Public's Trust: Key Features for Effective State Accountability Websites, examines state efforts to release public officials' integrity information online. Such transparency is crucial to guard against self-dealing and patronage. While states and the federal government have made progress in this area, more work lies ahead.

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Study Shows Private Contractors Usually Cost More than Public Employees

Conventional wisdom in Washington dictates that the private sector can always provide services at a lower cost than the federal government. A new study from the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), however, turns conventional wisdom on its head, demonstrating that the government rarely reaps the purported benefits of lower costs through the outsourcing of service work. In fact, POGO found that, on average, the government pays service contractors more than 1.8 times the amount it pays federal employees with the same education, doing the same job and performing similar tasks.

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Federal Agencies Release Retrospective Review Plans

On Aug. 23, federal agencies released their final plans for conducting retrospective reviews of regulations as directed by a January executive order from President Obama. Overall, the final plans closely reflect the preliminary plans released by agencies in May. Agencies stuck to their missions and did not cave to political or industry pressure to undermine their responsibilities to establish and enforce standards to protect the public.

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CWC's Final Report: Make Investments in Contracting Oversight

On Aug. 31, the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) released its final report to Congress, detailing contracting issues in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although most media outlets focused on the sensational estimates of funds lost through waste and fraud over the course of the wars – possibly totaling $60 billion – the report makes a much broader and compelling argument for systemic contracting reforms and better contractor oversight. With the current atmosphere of austerity on Capitol Hill, Congress should heed these recommendations.

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