The DATA Act Agency Reporting Deadline Has Arrived

Deadline Has ArrivedAs federal agencies prepare for the May 9 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) deadline, some agencies are on track to meet implementation requirements and others are not.

Under the DATA Act, federal agencies are required to report financial and award data via the DATA Act Broker, using a new, government-wide data structure outlined in the DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS).

Federal Agency DATA Act Readiness

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that 30 Offices of Inspector General (OIG) had completed reviews on their agencies’ readiness for the May 9 deadline as of Jan. 31, 2017. The reviews focused mainly on implementation efforts outlined in the DATA Act Implementation Playbook.

Following the reviews, OIG identified common agency implementation challenges. These included technology issues, holdups from other departments/agencies, lack of guidance from OMB and the Treasury, and inadequate resources to execute.

As a result, OIGs reported three agencies were not on track to meet DATA Act requirements in time: The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. International Trade Commission. Two additional agencies were mentioned as not being able to submit complete data by the deadline: the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the GAO, 13 agencies are expected to meet the deadline. For the remaining 12 agencies, the outlook was noted as questionable.

The Deadline Denotes the Beginning

In a recent article, GAO explains, “efforts to establish a fully functioning data governance structure are at an early stage with many specifics yet to be worked out.”

Moving forward, agencies must take an open, honest approach toward improving the quality of data produced. recent report from the Data Foundation and Deloitte noted the following as potential hurdles to data accuracy:

  • The law relies on the legacy Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) and the Federal Assistance Awards Data System (FAADS) for award-related information instead of source systems. Information would be more accurate if it was pulled directly from an agency’s grant management system versus plugged into an intermediary.
  • Vague definitions of some data standards could leave responses open to interpretation, inviting ambiguity and inconsistency into how information is reported across agencies.
  • Many agencies are focused on compliance, and don’t have systems or processes in place to use the data collected themselves. Without tangible use cases, agencies have no motivation to maintain data accuracy.

Work is just getting started to realize the potential of the DATA Act.

The DATA Act Trickle-Down Effect

While the May deadline is specific to federal agencies, it will have a trickle-down effect into the entire grant community. To remain compliant, federal agencies may begin to ask their recipients to report their spend information and performance in new ways.

As a result, strategic grant management is more important than ever. Federal agencies and award recipients should consider solutions to streamline the entire grant management lifecycle for data monitoring and report creation. One way to do this is by structuring grant information as machine-readable data to improve the reporting efficiency between grantor and recipient.

To that end, grant management software is a viable solution for the standardization of data elements, formats and processes. It can help both agencies and grant recipients properly track funds, and submit accurate and transparent reports.

For additional background information on the DATA Act, download our guide.

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Image Source: Steven Perez