The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs today passed Sen. Mark R. Warner's (D-VA) legislation to improve and expand federal fiscal accountability by unanimous voice vote. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), which is co-sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), requires standardized reporting of federal spending to be posted to a single website, allowing citizens to track spending in their communities. The bipartisan legislation, which Sens. Warner and Portman also introduced in the previous session of Congress, is a companion to legislation introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49), the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7). The legislation will now move to the full Senate for consideration.
"DATA will establish an open and accountable system for tracking every dollar spent by the federal government.," Sen. Warner said. "It is incredibly important in this budget environment to have reliable financial data to support the tough spending decisions that Congress will have to make in the coming years. Today's vote is an important step toward keeping policymakers and taxpayers better informed."
"At a time when the government is running trillion-dollar deficits on top of a record $17 trillion debt, Washington should be doing all it can to track how taxpayer dollars are spent. Better visibility and public disclosure of our government's $3.5 trillion in yearly spending is critical to identifying and eliminating waste," Sen. Portman said. "Our bill would reform and significantly improve USASpending.gov by strengthening federal financial transparency, empowering taxpayers to see how their money is spent, and providing a better tool for eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, and I am pleased that today's vote has brought it one step closer to passage."
"Enhancing government transparency, improving accountability, and reducing wasteful government spending continue to be among my top priorities as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee," Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said. "This important piece of legislation would further all three goals by making data on federal spending more readily available to the public and establishing stronger standards for how such spending is reported. Seven years ago, Dr. Coburn and then-Senator Obama created the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which took a critical first step in this area by establishing USASpending.gov, and shining a much-needed light on where the federal government was spending taxpayer dollars. This year, Senators Warner and Portman introduced the DATA Act, which took the necessary next step towards providing improved Government-wide spending data that is displayed accurately on USASpending.gov. The bi-partisan measure that the Committee passed today enhances USASpending.gov and streamlines its performance for taxpayers and policy makers alike. I'd like to thank Dr. Coburn and Senators Warner and Portman for their tireless work on this effort."
DATA will expand the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) to fully disclose Federal agency expenditures so taxpayers and policy makers can view the full cycle of spending for Federal funds. It takes steps to simplify financial reporting and improve the quality of the spending data. Below is a summary of the key components of this bipartisan legislation. Specifically it will:
- Create Transparency for All Federal Funds: DATA will expand FFATA to include spending data for all federal funds by appropriation, federal agency, sub-agency, account, program activity, object class, and maintains current reporting for federal awards like contracts, grants and loans. This expansion of USASpending.gov will allow policy makers and the public to track federal funds more clearly and link spending to budget priorities.
- Set Government-wide Financial Data Standards: The Department of Treasury is tasked with establishing financial data standards for the Federal agencies in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration to improve data quality. The legislation will establish one consistent framework to be used across the government to make it easier to compare federal spending.
- Reduce Recipient Reporting Requirements: This legislation requires the Office of Management and Budget to review the existing Federal award recipient financial reporting to reduce compliance costs based on the new financial data standards. The legislation will also establish a pilot program to evaluate alternatives for consolidating financial reporting for Federal award recipients.
- Improve Data Quality: The Inspectors General at each agency will be required to provide reports on the quality and accuracy of the financial data provided to USASpending.gov. The Government Accountability Office will also provide a report following the Inspectors Generals findings to create a government-wide assessment on the data quality and accuracy of the financial data reported.
The DATA Act is supported by organizations from across the political spectrum, including the America Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Americans for Tax Reform, Big Data Coalition, the Center for Effective Government, Center for Responsive Politics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Council for Citizens Against, Data Transparency Coalition, Government Accountability Project (GAP), Liberty Coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, Sunlight Foundation, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Sen. Warner, chairman of the Budget Committee's bipartisan Government Performance Task Force, has worked consistently to protect taxpayers by demanding greater efficiency and better performance from federal agencies and programs. Sen. Warner was a lead sponsor of the 2010 Government Performance and Modernization Act, which is now law and requires federal agencies to annually report on their highest and lowest performing programs. Sen. Warner also has been a leading voice on Capitol Hill for the reform or elimination of federal programs that overlap or are ineffective.