DATA Act Scheduled for Markup in House

Tomorrow morning the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will markup the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). The DATA Act seeks to expand upon the Recovery Act by turning the temporary Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board into a permanent “Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board” (FAST Board), which will have authority over all federal spending transparency and will administer The bill also expands upon the Recovery Act’s recipient reporting model, bringing it to the entire federal government.

While we support these principles, several issues remain with the bill as currently written. We previously wrote about these issues in the Watcher and our testimony to the Committee. We encourage the committee to address these concerns in its markup, particularly:

  • The entire bill is sunset after seven years, leaving citizens in the dark unless Congress renews the bill.
  • The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), which created, is repealed. Combined with the sunset provision, the repeal means that in seven years, federal spending transparency could be cast into limbo.
  • Due to vague wording, the DATA Act might not require so-called “ultimate recipient” reporting, in which every recipient down to a certain threshold must report.
  • The Act gives the FAST Board broad power to exempt recipients from reporting, and does not require any disclosure of the exemptions.
  • The bill does not include requirements for Treasury account data, tax expenditure information, or performance information, all of which is needed to move federal spending transparency to the next level.

We’re hoping that these and other issues are fixed at tomorrow’s markup. The bill is a step in the right direction, primarily because of the recipient reporting provision (although there are also some good data standardizations aspects to the law). But as the bill currently stands, it needs a great deal of work before it becomes law.

Image by Flickr user Natalie Tracy used under a Creative Commons license.

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