GAO has said that its latest review of compliance with the DATA Act has found that that more agencies are reporting their spending on usaspending.gov and that the data overall is more accurate than in its prior review in 2017.
That law requires agencies to report “high-quality data, so that legislators, government officials, and the public can better understand and compare how taxpayer money is used,” a blog posting said. Of the 41 data elements, 23 were at least 90 percent consistent compared with just five in 2017, while only five were significantly inconsistent compare with 12.
“While the improvements are encouraging, there is still room for progress. For example, 2 important data elements were reported improperly at least 10% of the time – award description and primary place of performance address. these elements are essential for spending transparency because they tell how and where federal money was spent,” it said.
“Issues with these data elements were generally due to agencies’ having difficulty interpreting or following reporting standards correctly. For example, some agencies had difficulty reporting the primary place of performance address for grants that have multiple sub-recipients in different locations. Other agencies used technical jargon in their award descriptions, making the purpose of the award hard to understand,” it said.
Other issues included that DoD procurement data isn’t shown on the website until 90 days after the agency reports it and the location of Medicare grants show the payment processing center, rather than the state or county of residence of the beneficiaries—which “could lead users to draw the wrong conclusions.”
GAO said that while agencies are taking steps to standardize their reporting, it again recommended that OMB clarify definitions to ensure that agencies submit more consistent data.