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GAO – Only One-Quarter of Agencies Publishing Timely, Accurate Spending Data

NextGov: “Eight agencies submitted financial data that was more than 75 percent wrong. Nearly three-quarters of federal agencies failed to meet internal auditors’ quality standards when publishing financial data, according to a congressional watchdog. Under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, agencies must use a standard framework when submitting quarterly spending data to the Treasury Department, but the Government Accountability Office found few agencies are submitting complete, timely and accurate information. After reviewing 53 inspector general reports on DATA Act compliance, GAO found only 15 agencies met IG standards for completeness, timeliness and accuracy. Just six of the 24 CFO Act agencies submitted high-quality data, auditors found.

“If you don’t have complete and accurate data, you don’t have transparency,” said Paula Rascona, who authored the GAO report. “The agencies definitely have a lot of work to do, and so do [the Office of Management and Budget] and Department of Treasury when it comes to their leadership.”..

Reported Quality of Agencies’ Spending Data Reviewed by OIGs Varied Because of Government-wide and Agency Issues GAO-18-546: Published: Jul 23, 2018. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 2018. “The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) requires agencies’ Offices of Inspector General (OIG) to issue reports on their assessments of the quality of the agencies’ spending data submissions and compliance with the DATA Act. The scope of all OIG reviews covered their agencies’ second quarter fiscal year 2017 submissions. The files the OIGs used to select and review sample transactions varied based on data availability, and OIGs performed different types of reviews under generally accepted government auditing standards. Some OIGs reported testing a statistical sample of transactions that their agencies submitted and other OIGs reported testing the full population of submitted transactions. Because of these variations, the overall error rates reported by the OIGs are not fully comparable and a government-wide error rate cannot be projected. According to the OIG reports, about half of the agencies met Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Department of the Treasury (Treasury) requirements for the implementation and use of data standards. The OIGs also reported that most agencies’ first data submissions were not complete, timely, accurate, or of quality. OIG survey responses show that OIGs generally reported higher (projected) overall error rates for the accuracy of data than for completeness and timeliness. OIGs reported certain errors that involve inconsistencies in how the Treasury broker (system that collects and validates agency-submitted data) extracted data from certain federal award systems that resulted in government-wide issues outside the agencies’ control, while other errors may have been caused by agency-specific control deficiencies. For example, OIGs reported deficiencies related to agencies’ lack of effective procedures or controls and systems issues. Most OIGs made recommendations to agencies to address identified concerns. OMB staff and Treasury officials told GAO that they reviewed the OIG reports to better understand issues identified by the OIGs. OMB issued new guidance in June 2018 requiring agencies to develop data quality plans intended to achieve the objectives of the DATA Act. Treasury officials told GAO that they are collaborating with OMB and the Chief Financial Officers Council DATA Act Audit Collaboration working group to identify and resolve government-wide issues…”

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