Open Government Directive Highlights Federal Spending Transparency
by Craig Jennings
Dec 8, 2009
Sean noted earlier today that the Obama Administration released the Open Government Directive this morning. It will have far-reaching implications for government transparency generally, but the directive focuses on federal spending transparency, specifically mentioning Recovery Act transparency as a critical venue for federal government openess.
OMB Watch has long emphasized that efforts to simply publish government data without ensuring that the data are high quality can actually undermine transparency. Readers will note the myriad attacks on the Recovery Act itself when a lack of proper data quality controls allowed Recovery Act recipients to report spurious and inaccurate information in their spending reports. Such attacks on the underlying act will likely make Congress think twice before implementing such transparency requirements in future spending legislation.
Recognizing the critical importance of publishing accurate data, OMB Director Peter Orszag sets out in the directive a section (the second of five) aimed at improving data quality:
To improve the quality of government information available to the public, senior leaders should make certain that the information conforms to OMB guidance on information quality and that adequate systems and processes are in place within the agencies to promote such conformity.
To accomplish this, the administration indicates that it will:
- Direct federal agencies to "designate a high-level senior official to be accountable for the quality and objectivity of, and internal controls over, the Federal spending information publicly disseminated through such public venues as USAspending.gov or other similar websites [i.e. including Recovery.gov]."
- Design "a framework for the quality of Federal spending information publicly disseminated through such public venues as USAspending.gov or other similar websites [i.e. including Recovery.gov]" that will require agencies to submit plans to implement the system and process changes required to implement internal controls that will improve data quality.
- Issue "a longer-term comprehensive strategy for Federal spending transparency, including the Federal Funding Accountability Transparency Act [the law that established USASpending.org] and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act."
In other words USASpending.gov and Recovery.gov are just the beginning. We are certainly pleased to see such high-level attention paid to not just improving data quality, but to a concerted, long-term effort designed to push federal spending transparency even further.
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