The DATA Act & Early Efforts for Government Transparency

Posted by Anthony Curcio on 11/12/14 11:08 AM

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LAN_cableMany people view their tax dollars as an investment in their government. They want to know how much money—how much of their money—is spent on specific programs and geographic areas. This question has not always been easy to answer, but progress has been made over time. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) is designed to further transparency in the U.S. Government by requiring agencies to collect and submit more financial data to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for reporting to the American people.

Transparency in government spending gained steam in the mid-1990s with the launch of THOMAS, a database of legislative information that is accessible to the public. Pioneered by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, THOMAS was revolutionary in the amount of information it offered in the name of government transparency and accountability.

In its wake, USASpending.gov was created as a requirement of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act to specifically disclose how money moves within the U.S. Government. The idea behind USASpending.gov was to allow a citizen to look up where Federal contracts, grants, and loans are being spent and allocated.

When the recession hit, President Obama (who, as a Senator, had co-sponsored the bill for USASpending.gov’s creation) pushed for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to help kick-start the U.S. economy. To encourage and promote further transparency, the President wanted ARRA-related spending, as well as the number of jobs it helped create, to be posted on Recovery.gov. This website, in addition to USASpending.gov, furthered the push for a more transparent government based on publicly available data.

The DATA Act, passed in April 2014 and signed into law in May 2014, mandates greater financial reporting from agencies and increases the amount of information that will be available on USASpending.gov. The data will allow citizens to learn more about spending patterns and debt owed to the Federal Government.

The DATA Act will not only provide lots of insight to the average citizen, but it will also put a huge responsibility on the Treasury Department and their ability to handle this impending wave of data. In part two of this series, we’ll look at the DATA Act’s specific requirements. Stay tuned.

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Topics: federal credit

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