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«United States Government Accountability Office Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Government Operations, Committee on Oversight and Government ...»

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United States Government Accountability Office


Before the Subcommittee on

Government Operations, Committee on

Oversight and Government Reform,

House of Representatives


For Release on Delivery

Expected at 9:00 a.m. ET

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Progresses but

Challenges Remain

Statement of Paula M. Rascona


Financial Management and Assurance




Chairman Meadows, Ranking Member Connolly, and Members of the


I am pleased to be here today to discuss steps that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), and federal agencies have taken to implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act). 1 As you know, the critical deadline of May 2017 is approaching, at which time agencies will be required to report their financial and payment data in compliance with established standards. We have previously reported that OMB and Treasury have taken significant steps toward implementing the act’s various requirements, including standardizing data element definitions, issuing guidance to help agencies develop their implementation plans, and designing a pilot for developing recommendations to reduce recipient reporting burden. 2 We have also reported that agencies have identified challenges to the effective and timely implementation of the DATA Act, including inadequate guidance, tight time frames, competing priorities, a lack of funding, and system integration issues, and are taking actions to mitigate these challenges. 3 Today, we are releasing another report in a series of interim reports that GAO is providing to the Congress in fulfillment of our mandate to provide oversight of DATA Act implementation. 4 Our report examined (1) steps taken by OMB and Treasury to establish a clear data governance structure, which is particularly important for the transition to a new administration; (2) challenges reported by major agencies in their implementation plan updates; (3) the operationalization of governmentwide data standards and technical specifications for data reporting; and (4) updated designs for the pilot for reducing recipient reporting burden and progress made in its implementation. My statement will highlight key findings and the recommendation from our report and provide updates on Pub. L. No. 113-101, 128 Stat. 1146 (May 9, 2014). The DATA Act amended the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA). Pub. L. No. 109-282, 120 Stat. 1186 (Sept. 26, 2006), codified at 31 U.S.C. § 6101 note.

See list of related GAO products at the end of this statement.

GAO, DATA ACT: Improvements Needed in Reviewing Agency Implementation Plans and Monitoring Progress, GAO-16-698 (Washington, D.C.: July 29, 2016).

GAO, DATA Act: OMB and Treasury Have Issued Additional Guidance and Have Improved Pilot Design but Implementation Challenges Remain, GAO-17-156 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 8, 2016).

–  –  –

OMB and Treasury have established a new Data Standards Committee Data Governance and that will be responsible for maintaining established standards and the Transition to a developing new data elements or data definitions that could affect more than one functional community (e.g., financial management, financial New Administration assistance, and procurement). Although this represents progress in responding to GAO’s prior recommendation, more remains to be done to establish a data governance structure that is consistent with leading practices to ensure the integrity of data standards over time.

–  –  –

Page 3 GAO-17-282T DATA Act Implementation Update evolving and complex reporting requirements, and inadequate guidance.

To address these challenges, most agencies reported taking mitigating actions, such as making changes to internal policies and procedures, leveraging existing resources, utilizing external resources, and employing manual and temporary workarounds.

However, the information reported by the CFO Act agencies in their implementation plan updates indicates that some agencies are at increased risk of not meeting the May 2017 reporting deadline because of these challenges. In addition, inspectors general for some agencies, such as the Departments of Labor and Housing and Urban Development, have issued readiness review reports indicating that their respective agencies are at risk of not meeting the reporting deadline. 7 As discussed further below, the technical software requirements for agency reporting are still evolving, so any changes to the technical requirements over the next few months could also affect agencies’ ability to meet the reporting deadline.

In August 2016, in response to a prior GAO recommendation, OMB established procedures for reviewing and using agency implementation plan updates that include procedures for identifying ongoing challenges.

According to the procedures document, OMB will also be monitoring progress toward the statutory deadline and setting up meetings with any of the 24 CFO Act agencies that OMB identifies as being at risk of not meeting the implementation deadline.

Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, The Department Needs to Ensure It Is

on Track to Implement DATA Act Requirements, 17-16-002-13-001 (Washington, D.C.:

September 2016), and Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Independent Attestation Review: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, DATA Act Implementation Efforts, Memorandum No. 2016-FO-0802 (Washington, D.C.: August 2016).

–  –  –

The Section 5 Pilot is designed to develop recommendations to reduce Pilot to Reduce the reporting burden for federal funds recipients. It has two primary focus Recipient Reporting areas: federal grants and federal contracts (procurements). OMB partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to design Burden and implement the grants portion of the pilot and with the General Services Administration to implement the procurement portion.

–  –  –

1. Establish well-defined, appropriate, clear, and measurable objectives.

2. Clearly articulate an assessment methodology and data gathering strategy that addresses all components of the pilot program and includes key features of a sound plan.

3. Identify criteria or standards for identifying lessons about the pilot to inform decisions about scalability and whether, how, and when to integrate pilot activities into overall efforts.

4. Develop a detailed data-analysis plan to track the pilot program’s implementation and performance and evaluate the final results of the project and draw conclusions on whether, how, and when to integrate pilot activities into overall efforts.

5. Ensure appropriate two-way stakeholder communication and input at all stages of the pilot project, including design, implementation, data gathering, and assessment.

Source: GAO. For additional information on these practices as well as the methodology used to identify them, see GAO-16-438 | GAO-17-282T.

We also determined that the updated design for both portions of the Section 5 Pilot meets the statutory requirements for the pilot established under the DATA Act. Specifically, the DATA Act requires that the pilot program include the following design features: (1) collection of data during a 12-month reporting cycle; (2) a diverse group of federal award recipients and, to the extent practicable, recipients that receive federal awards from multiple programs across multiple agencies; and (3) a combination of federal contracts, grants, and subawards with an aggregate value between $1 billion and $2 billion. 10 Although this represented significant progress since April 2016, we identified an area where further improvement is still needed. Specifically, the plan for the procurement portion of the pilot does not clearly describe and document how findings related to centralized certified payroll reporting will be more broadly applicable to the many other types of required procurement reporting. This is of particular concern given the diversity of federal procurement reporting requirements.

FFATA, § 5(b)(3), (b)(2)(B), (b)(2)(C), (b)(2)(A).

Page 7 GAO-17-282T DATA Act Implementation Update Implementation of the grants portion of the pilot is currently under way, but the procurement portion is not scheduled to begin until early 2017.

Department of Health and Human Services officials and OMB staff told us that they are recruiting participants and have begun administering data collection instruments for all components of the grants portion of the pilot.

However, in late November 2016, OMB staff and General Services Administration officials informed us that they decided to delay further implementation of the procurement portion of the pilot in order to ensure that security procedures designed to protect personally identifiable information were in place. As a result, General Service Administration officials expect to be able to begin collecting data through the centralized reporting portal sometime between late January 2017 and late February

2017. OMB staff stated that despite the delay, they still plan on collecting 12 months of data through the procurement pilot as required by the act.

In our report being released today, we made a new recommendation to OMB that would help ensure that the procurement portion of the Section 5 Pilot better reflects leading practices for effective pilot design. In commenting on the report being released today, OMB neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but provided an overview of its implementation efforts since passage of the DATA Act. These efforts include issuing three memorandums providing implementation guidance to federal agencies, finalizing 57 data standards for use on USASpending.gov, establishing the Data Standards Committee to develop and maintain standards for federal spending, and developing and executing the Section 5 Pilot. OMB also noted that, along with Treasury, it met with each of the 24 CFO Act agencies to discuss the agency’s implementation timeline, unique risks, and risk mitigation strategy and took action to address issues that may affect successful DATA Act implementation. According to OMB, as a result of these one-on-one meetings with agencies, OMB and Treasury learned that in spite of the challenges faced by the agencies, 19 of the 24 CFO Act agencies expect that they will fully meet the May 2017 deadline for DATA Act implementation.

Treasury also provided comments on our report being released today. In its comments, Treasury provided an overview of the steps it has taken to implement the DATA Act’s requirements and assist agencies in meeting the requirements under the act, including OMB’s and Treasury’s issuance of uniform data standards, technical requirements, and implementation guidance. Treasury’s response also noted that as a result of the aggressive implementation timelines specified in the act and the complexity associated with linking hundreds of disconnected data

–  –  –

If you or your staff have any questions about this testimony, please GAO Contact and contact Paula M. Rascona at (202) 512-9816 or rasconap@gao.gov.

Staff Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this statement. GAO staff who Acknowledgments made key contributions to this testimony are Michael LaForge (Assistant Director), Peter Del Toro (Assistant Director), Maria Belaval, Aaron Colsher, Kathleen Drennan, Thomas Hackney, Diane Morris, Katherine Morris, and Laura Pacheco.

–  –  –

DATA Act: OMB and Treasury Have Issued Additional Guidance and Have Improved Pilot Design but Implementation Challenges Remain.

GAO-17-156. Washington, D.C.: December 8, 2016.

DATA Act: Initial Observations on Technical Implementation.

GAO-16-824R. Washington, D.C.: August 3, 2016.

–  –  –

DATA Act: Data Standards Established, but More Complete and Timely Guidance Is Needed to Ensure Effective Implementation. GAO-16-261.

Washington, D.C.: January 29, 2016.

–  –  –

Federal Data Transparency: Effective Implementation of the DATA Act Would Help Address Government-wide Management Challenges and Improve Oversight. GAO-15-241T. Washington, D.C.: December 3, 2014.

Data Transparency: Oversight Needed to Address Underreporting and Inconsistencies on Federal Award Website. GAO-14-476. Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2014.

Federal Data Transparency: Opportunities Remain to Incorporate Lessons Learned as Availability of Spending Data Increases.

GAO-13-758. Washington, D.C.: September 12, 2013.

Government Transparency: Efforts to Improve Information on Federal Spending. GAO-12-913T. Washington, D.C.: July 18, 2012.

(101272) Page 10 GAO-17-282T DATA Act Implementation Update This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately.

The Government Accountability Office, the audit, evaluation, and investigative GAO’s Mission arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.

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