Agencies are conducting a series of pilot programs to improve the oversight and processing of grants, contracts, loans and other spending data.
The test programs are part of how the Government Accountability and Transparency (GAT) Board is implementing three broad-based recommendations.
President Barack Obama created the GAT Board in June 2011 in an executive order. Just last week, the President announced Richard Ginman, the director of Defense Department procurement policy, will be the chairman of the board. In that role, he replaced Earl Devaney, who retired on Dec. 31.
“[T] he GATB has been working closely with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which established a new benchmark for how we should collect, display and oversee federal spending data under the Recovery Act through Recovery.gov and its innovative Recovery Operations Center,” wrote Danny Werfel, the Office of Management and Budget’s controller, in a blog post Monday. “Together with the Recovery Board, federal agencies, OMB and others, the GATB is a critical driver of continued progress in our forthcoming efforts to make federal spending data more complete, more transparent, and more reliable.”
Agencies testing tools
The board made three recommendations to Obama in December, and since then have been implementing each one of them on a pilot basis.
For instance, the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services are conducting an interagency review of how best to standardize spending data.
“This review involves formulating recommendations for standardizing grant and contract-award data elements and is under consideration by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council and the Council on Financial Assistance Reform,” the board wrote in a report to the President. “DoD is implementing a set of data standards for contracts as well as a contract number index standard for improving data integrity. HHS identified standard data elements for grants that may be adaptable to this data standardization effort.”
Another set of pilots is giving agency inspector generals access to the Recovery Operations Center and FederalAccountability.gov systems to evaluate risk and prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse.
IGs also are testing the Recovery Board’s FastAlert tool, which gives them immediate access to review data on potential awardees.
“Any searches submitted by application users that appear to match those in FastAlert receive additional internal research conducted by ROC analysts before transmitting the information to the requestor,” the board stated.
OMB aims for transparency
Along with these ongoing pilots, OMB and agencies are preparing other tests.
Werfel said OMB is developing a new Statement of Spending. The administration hopes it will make information about where and how agencies spend money more transparent as part of their annual audited financial statements.
“We will be piloting this new statement with a number of agencies in their financial reports that will be submitted in November of this year,” he said.
The Recovery Board also is working with the Treasury Department to include an universal award identification (UAID) number in its payment system.
The board stated the UAID would ensure uniformity and consistency of data, enable more efficient reviews and audits and improve transparency.
“The Recovery Board will engage with Treasury along with OMB to provide agencies and recipients of funds the ability to link Treasury payments to specific awards,” the board stated. “The Recovery Board will also work to develop an implementation strategy and high-level design for a central repository.”
The GAT Board expects the results of these pilots later this summer and will submit another report to the President in December.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 8-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006, and launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.