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FCW : August 30, 2014
Commentary | STEVE GOODRICH STEVE GOODRICH is president of the Center for Organizational Excellence and a Government Transformation Initiative board member. The recently enacted Digital Accountability and Transparency Act requires agencies to disclose direct expenditures and link them to con- tracts, loans and grants. It requires the establishment of standards, improvements in the quality of data and streamlined reporting through the use of USASpending.gov. The law addresses the timeli- ness and accuracy of reported data, and seeks to eliminate duplication and reduce the cost of compliance. If implemented correctly, the act could provide an underlying frame- work to support not only transpar- ency and accountability in govern- ment, but also improvements in the ef ciency and effectiveness of federal programs. Here are my recommendations for getting the most out of the Data Act: 1. Incorporate a transition or implementation model that helps agencies comply with the act. Beyond setting data standards, the model would ensure that the standards address consistency, effective management and technol- ogy requirements for data transfer protocols, cleansing and similar functions. Data accuracy, agencies ability to comply, appropriate use of the tools and effective analysis will all be critical to the act s success. Data accuracy, however, has proven to be a challenge in gov- ernment. Payment and procure- ment data has historically been elusive and often inaccurate when reported. Having the appropriate technology tools to collect data is necessary for standardization and cost management. However, if the datasets are not accurate and com- plete, the process is useless. The Treasury Department plans to address these factors in a pilot program, but the post-pilot imple- mentation will reveal whether the Data Act will be effective in prac- tice and not just in theory. Ten years ago, the Of ce of Per- sonnel Management standardized human resources data. It required a signi cant effort and the partici- pation of a number of stakehold- ers at numerous agencies, but the endeavor resulted in a govern- mentwide standard. Let s use that example of successful standardiza- tion to inform implementation of the Data Act. 2. Expand the act to include performance-based reporting on programs. The law clearly states that the data should enable Con- gress and taxpayers to track federal spending more effectively. The assumption is that these parties can use the data to be better informed, enabling them to make recommen- dations for acceleration, change, elimination or improvement of gov- ernment programs. It would be a big day in Wash- ington if the Data Act expanded to include program performance- related data, with metrics showing what the American people are get- ting in return for their tax dollars. Although nancial data can be helpful in fraud, waste and abuse investigations and in painting an accurate picture of costs, it tells only part of the story. The report- ing of performance and outcomes is critical to the ef cacy and ef ciency of the program and ultimately to the government s ability to serve the American people. 3. Pass the Government Trans- formation Act. The legislation would create a Commission on Government Transformation tasked with making recommendations on how to improve the ef ciency and effectiveness of federal programs. The commission could host a Data Analysis Center, incorporate the critical performance data needed to measure outcomes and highlight the need for an ef cient and effec- tive government, while saving bil- lions of dollars in the process. Without complete and accurate data, standards for implementation and performance data, the desired outcomes of the Data Act might not be fully realized. Now it is time to ensure that the Data Act is as effec- tiveasitcanbe.■ 3 ways to get more out of the Data Act The law shows great promise for improving transparency and ef ciency, but its success will hinge on how it is implemented It would be a big day in Washington if the Data Act expanded to include program performance-related data. 12 August 30, 2014 FCW.COM
September 15, 2014
August 15, 2014