[OpenSpending] US Gov Watchdog (GAO) publishes report on usaspending.gov

Julia Keserű jkeseru at sunlightfoundation.com
Mon Aug 11 18:02:05 UTC 2014


GAO confirms USASpending data quality problems
by Matthew Rumsey <http://sunlightfoundation.com/team/mrumsey/>

   - policy <http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/policy/>

AUG. 7, 2014, 9:50 A.M.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just confirmed something that
we've been saying <http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/tag/clearspending/> for
years: Grant and loan data available through USASpending.gov

A new report <http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664536.pdf>, entitled *Data
Transparency: Oversight Needed to Address Underreporting and
Inconsistencies on Federal Award Website, *looks at spending data reported
under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA). What
the GAO found is not encouraging; it isn't surprising either.

The GAO compared data available on USASpending with agency records and
found significant misreporting and data quality problems related to
assistance awards (grants and loans). This inconsistent reporting, to the
tune of $619 billion in fiscal year 2012 as well as the other findings,
track closely with our Clearspending
<http://sunlightfoundation.com/clearspending/consistency/> project, which
looked at similar data. Clearspending found inconsistent reporting of over
$500 billion in FY2009, $800 billion in FY2010 and $900 billion in FY2011.

The GAO found that agencies simply failed to file required information for
342 programs. In many other cases, the information filed did not match up
with the agency's own records. In fact, the GAO estimates that only between
2-to-7 percent of the awards in USASpending are fully consistent with
agency records across the 21 data elements that they examined.

The report isn't all bad news, however. It appears that agencies are doing
a decent job reporting required information on contracts.

USASpending is the primary way for the public to access information about
government spending. As long as the data is bad, we cannot fully embrace a
system designed to improve oversight and empower taxpayers.

Fortunately, we don't just know the data is bad, we know how to fix it.
Proper implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act
<http://www.opencongress.org/bill/s994-113/show>, recently passed by
Congress and signed into law by President Obama, should solve some of these
problems by creating a more standardized system for reporting this
information and, hopefully, ensuring that agencies report accurate data to
USASpending. Having accurate access to this data will boost oversight and
allow for improved decision making about government spending.

On Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 1:56 PM, Rufus Pollock <rufus.pollock at okfn.org>

> The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published a reporting
> looking at data quality on US gov spending site http://usaspending.gov
> http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664536.pdf
> They find that a significant amount of spending was not reported (~$620
> billion) and less than 8% of information was fully accurate.
> Whist this may not seem great, in many ways I see this report as testimony
> to the power of transparency and open data: no doubt these issues existed
> *inside* government before but now that we have more data transparency the
> problems are clearer (and its more likely something is done about them).
> So all in all: well done to the US for publishing the data and then
> auditing it!
> Regards,
> Rufus
> PS: would anyone be interested in writing a blog post on this for
> community.openspending.org summarizing the reports main findings?
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Júlia Keserű
International Policy Manager

1818 N Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
(1) 202-742-1520 *246

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