On a unanimous voice vote, the House has approved the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, with the goal of establishing strong reporting standards for federal spending information.

The DATA Act builds upon two earlier systems, the Recovery Operations Center and USASpending.gov, to create a single electronic system that combines spending information from various agencies, the Treasury, and recipients of federal funds. It will use Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, data-tagging technology similar to the kind already required by the Securities and Exchange Commission for financial filings and in the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s U.S. GAAP taxonomy. The bill received support from the American Institute of CPAs and other groups.

The reaction to the recent scandal generated by the General Services Administration’s conference in Las Vegas also helped push the bill to passage in the House.

“Today’s strong bipartisan showing is a major win for transparency and accountability,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the bill’s lead Republican sponsor. “The lavish spending by GSA in Las Vegas has again highlighted the extent of waste and excess that occurs in government. The DATA Act will create accountability by exposing waste and allowing Americans to examine the details of how the federal is spending their tax dollars.”

The legislation's lead cosponsor is Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the Oversight Committee.

The DATA Act also caps non-military federal travel spending at 80 percent of fiscal year 2010 levels and limits the number and size of taxpayer funded government conferences, cutting travel spending by hundreds of million per year.

AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon hailed passage of the bill. “The House’s passage today of H.R. 2146 is an important step toward requiring that information reported under the DATA Act utilize nonproprietary data standards, such as eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL),” he said in a statement Wednesday. “The DATA Act requires that all federal agencies and recipients of federal funds report their spending using nonproprietary standards. The AICPA has advocated for this legislation to enhance transparency since its introduction.

“A newly created Financial Accountability and Spending Transparency (FAST) Commission would facilitate clearer, more accurate data reporting among federal agencies, recipients of federal grants, contracts and loans,” Melancon added.  “Further, the FAST Commission will designate common data elements and data reporting requirements for the information provided by recipients and agencies.  The legislation specifies that the FAST Commission ‘shall, to the extent practicable, incorporate existing nonproprietary standards, such as eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL).’  The use of XBRL creates ‘intelligent data’ because a tag can be attached to each piece of data in a financial or business report.  All of the tagged data would be put on one public platform, which would make government spending more transparent. “

Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., has sponsored companion legislation in the Senate, and the AICPA urged the Senate to move forward and consider the legislation.

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