Sneak Preview: Errors Continue in Agency DATA Act Reporting

Jerry Ashworth
July 23, 2020 at 14:17:54 ET
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(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) While most federal agencies reporting spending data for the first quarter (Q1) of federal fiscal year (FY) 2019 under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) (Pub. L. 113-101) had error rates for data timeliness and accuracy of less than 20%, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) review noted that agencies’ Offices of Inspector General (OIG) still had recommendations to improve the data quality.

The DATA Act requires federal agency OIGs to issue reports on their assessments of the quality of the agencies’ reported spending data, and the implementation and use of data standards established under the act. The act further requires GAO to review the OIG reports and inform Congress about its assessment of the completeness, timeliness, quality and accuracy of data that agencies submit, and the implementation and use of data standards. The July report is the second such report issued by GAO, following a similar report in July 2018 on data reporting for the second quarter of FY 2017.

The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) in February 2019 developed the Inspectors General Guide to Compliance under the DATA Act (IG Guide) for OIGs to use when reviewing whether agencies were meeting DATA Act reporting requirements, including error rates and internal control deficiencies. The guide further defines how OIGs should address reporting timeliness, completeness and accuracy. While 51 OIGs reported a determination on the quality of data submitted by their agencies for Q1 of FY 2019, only 48 OIGs did so using the scale in the IG Guide.

GAO found that of these 48 OIGs, 44 reporting on the completeness (i.e., transactions and events that should have been recorded were recorded in the proper period) of their agency’s spending data explained that the error rate was 20% or less, while two agency OIGs reported an error rate greater than 40%. Likewise, 42 OIGs reported the accuracy of their agency’s data elements had an error rate of 20% or less, while three had an error rate of more than 40%. Accuracy of data elements, according to the IG Guide, means that amounts and other data relating to recorded transactions have been recorded in accordance with Department of the Treasury DATA Act guidance and agree with authoritative source records. GAO also found that 38 OIGs reported that the timeliness (i.e., data elements were reported in accordance with reporting schedules) of their agency’s data had an error rate of less than 20%, while four said their agency’s error rate was 40% or higher.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time here.)

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