Watchdog report identifies four agencies with lower quality spending data
The federal agencies with the most incomplete and opaque spending data reported include the Federal Communications Commission, the Agriculture Department, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, and the U.S. African Development Foundation, according to a federal spending transparency report released Tuesday.
Spending data reported at the end of 2021 by the Offices of Inspector General (OIG) at 57 federal agencies were analyzed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that while most agencies had high or excellent quality of data reporting, there were four agencies that had ‘lower’ quality spending data reported and eight that had ‘moderate’ quality data.
The eight federal agencies with moderate quality spending data were: The Department of Homeland Security, the Labor Department, the Defense Department, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Election Assistance Commission, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and AmeriCorps.
“Many agencies did not submit data to the broker or did not review or report data to internal financial management systems and third-party external systems within established time frames, which resulted in errors in the data submitted,” the GAO report found.
“Some agencies had issues related to information technology systems controls, including systems integration and configuration to incorporate DATA Act standards, and the lack of effective automated systems controls, such as those to help ensure proper system user access or data accuracy and completeness,” the report added.
Congress enacted the DATA Act in 2014 to provide both policymakers and the public a means of more effectively tracking federal spending by increasing accountability and transparency of data related to it.
The act requires OIGs to issue three reports evaluating the completeness, timeliness, quality, and accuracy of each agency’s spending data and its implementation and use of applicable data standards.
The DATA act aims to improve the quality of data agencies submit to USAspending.gov—a repository of spending data for the federal government—by holding them accountable for the completeness and accuracy of the data they submit.
Federal agencies are expected to properly implement and use the data standards established by OMB and Treasury.
More than eight years after the DATA Act has become law, there remain some significant gaps in the transparency and completeness of federal government spending data, particularly from some of the largest and most complex agencies like the VA, Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and Department of Agriculture.
In March 2022, the GAO recommended that Congress consider amending the DATA Act to ensure OIGs review and improve the timeliness, quality, and accuracy of their agencies’ data submissions particularly during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GAO found that multiple federal agencies had significant shortcomings in their application of fundamental internal controls and financial and fraud risk management practices during the pandemic which led to billions of dollars being at risk for improper payments, including those from fraud.