The House has unanimously passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, also known as the DATA Act, on Monday, following Senate passage earlier this month and sending the legislation to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
The legislation, which was backed by the American Institute of CPAs, would build the necessary infrastructure to standardize and publish federal spending data, putting into law several key elements of President Obama’s May 2013 Open Data Policy.
The DATA Act improves upon the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which then-Senator Obama sponsored in 2006, by mandating the adoption of consistent government-wide data standards. The legislation would use technology such as Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, in financial reporting on government spending, making it more open and accessible.
When the legislation passed in the Senate earlier this month, the AICPA was among the organizations praising its passage, along with another group known as the Data Transparency Coalition (see Data Transparency Coalition, AICPA Applaud Senate Approval of DATA Act).
The Institute reiterated its support on Monday. “The AICPA commends the U. S. House of Representatives for approving the DATA Act,” said AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon in a statement. “Significantly, the measure requires the Department of the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget to adopt a non-proprietary, platform-independent data standard, such as Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), for the reporting of federal financial and performance information. This is a good-government bill that will provide taxpayers and policy makers alike with more transparent access to information about how federal agencies spend taxpayer dollars. We are especially grateful to the House legislation’s sponsors, Representatives Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the chairman and ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, for guiding the measure from start to finish in that chamber. The DATA Act gained Senate approval earlier this month, and it is our hope that the President will sign it into law without delay.”
"After three years of debate and negotiation over the DATA Act, Congress has issued a clear and unified mandate for open, reliable federal spending data," said Data Transparency Coalition executive director Hudson Hollister, who helped draft the initial version of the DATA Act while working on Issa's ataff. "Our Coalition now calls on President Obama to put his open data policies into action by signing the DATA Act and committing his Office of Management and Budget to pursue robust data standards throughout federal financial, budget, grant and contract reporting."
Another group, the Government Transformation Initiative, also applauded passage of the DATA Act on Monday and urged President Obama to quickly sign the bill into law as another step in providing transparent government spending data that can be used to transform the federal government and reduce waste and fraud.
“Passage of the DATA Act shows the power of members of Congress working together across party lines to improve government accountability,” said GTI chairman and former U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker in a statement. “We must continue to foster this atmosphere of bipartisanship and government accountability and pass the Government Transformation Act (H.R. 2675/S. 1297). This legislation will take immediate steps to provide a focused effort on mitigating government inefficiencies and increasing the effectiveness of government operations and programs.”
The bill would require each government program to disclose agency expenditures that enables taxpayers and policy makers to track Federal spending more efficiently.
“The passage of this bill is important precisely because the bureaucrats in Washington don’t want it and have fought it every step of the way,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.. “In many cases, the federal government doesn’t even know what they’re doing with their resources and now they will have to know in order to comply with this law. I hope President Obama will sign this bill into law as soon as possible and force the federal government to provide a full and transparent accounting of their use of taxpayer funds,” Dr. Coburn said.”
In addition, the DATA Act will establish government-wide data standards for financial data and provide consistent, reliable, and searchable spending data that is displayed accurately for taxpayers and policy makers on USASpending.gov. By making government spending information more easily accessible, the legislation will also increase oversight to detect and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse while enabling individuals to more easily access and understand how Federal tax dollars are being spent.