Department of Energy spending data on USASpending.gov might be off by at least $34 billion due to accuracy errors with 15 procurement awards, according to an Office of Inspector General report released Friday.
Recording errors made years ago in the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation (FPDS-NG), concerning current and potential total value of award data, may have persisted in the department’s first quarter fiscal 2021 data.
Those errors predate the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act), which requires agencies like DOE to make spending data public on the Treasury Department‘s USASpending.gov website, and have gone largely unaddressed.
“[A]lthough quarterly data quality reviews were to be performed to include validation and documentation of cumulative total value award elements, we were told that only incomplete or blank values were researched for a sample of transactions that occurred during the quarter,” reads DOE OIG’s report.
DOE needs to add data quality review processes documenting and researching incomplete and inaccurate data to ensure overall quality, according to the OIG.
OIG also determined the majority of reporting weaknesses were due to department officials failing to ensure data from third-party systems maintained by agencies like Treasury and the General Services Administration were complete and accurate.
Despite this, the watchdog noted the department’s continued DATA Act reporting improvement, rating DOE’s data quality “excellent” with 96% of 20,504 required elements complete, accurate and timely.
Of 326 completeness errors, where procurement and financial assistance data submitted to USASpending.gov isn’t populated in the appropriate file, none were attributable to DOE, OIG found.
The 265 accuracy errors, where recorded transaction amounts and other data aren’t documented in accordance with the DATA Act and disagree with original records, were though, according to the inspector general.
The same was true of three timeliness errors, where procurement award data wasn’t reported in FPDS-NG within the required three days of the award. DOE offered no justification, according to OIG.
OIG found no errors tied to COVID-19 data and made no formal recommendations.
“However, we suggest that the deputy chief financial officer and the director, Office of Management update and implement processes for ensuring the completeness, accuracy and timeliness of the Department’s DATA Act submission,” reads the report. “This includes ensuring that the Department’s data elements that are extracted, derived and reported are reviewed and resolved, as appropriate.”