Treasury Department: We’re Going to Show You the Money
by Craig Jennings
Jul 18, 2012
Testifying before a Senate hearing on federal spending transparency, Richard L. Gregg, the Treasury Department's Fiscal Assistant Secretary, announced a major advancement in federal spending transparency: starting in 2013, the public will be able to see Treasury data on agency expenses and payments to recipients of federal contracts, grants, and loans.
This data is essentially the entries from the nation's checkbook. Crucially, this payment data will be able to be linked to other government data, including USAspending.gov. And, according to Gregg, it will "enable the public to follow a payment through the complete spending cycle - from appropriations to the disbursements of grants, contracts, and administrative spending."
The new system, called the Payment Information Repository (PIR), will make reports available to the public by July 2013 and "structured queries" available by December of that year. Additional functionality is planned for later releases. To make this possible, Treasury had to restructure its data behind the scenes. These changes make it possible for Treasury to collect additional payment-related information from agencies, including contract, grant, recipient, recipient location data, and other program-related data.
Seeing Treasury payment data, in and of itself, is essential for federal spending transparency, but displaying this information and tying it to contract and grant data is key to improving data quality on USAspending.gov. Data on USAspending.gov is on contract and grant obligations, not actual payments to the firms or individuals doing work for the federal government. Agencies have made improvements in the quality of data they report, but it's still far from perfect. If you want to know how much money has gone out the door and to whom it has been paid, there is no higher data quality than what appears on the "Pay to the Order of" and "Amount" lines of Treasury payments.
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