Devaney: Recipient reporting yields better data than agency reporting in transparency initiatives


Data reporting from federal-fund recipients is more accurate and less costly to report than if the data were gleaned from agencies, according to Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. Adopting the data-collection strategy government-wide could improve financial accountability initiatives, he added.

"The migration from recipient reporting to agency reporting with no loss in accuracy and potential savings cost would be a smart thing to do," said Devaney, during a June 14 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"Recipient reporting is as accurate if not more accurate than agency reporting," he added. "We've built into our systems opportunities for checks and balances and for agencies and recipients to think about what they've reported and change it if they have to."

Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced on June 13 the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which would create a spending transparency oversight board and a single, government-wide reporting system.

Issa argued that a more standardized and centralized reporting strategy would lessen reporting inaccuracies.

"The data that is established on federal websites is unreliable, inaccurate and, most importantly, incompatible and often opaque to those who need it most," said Issa. " was only 30 percent accurate in Fiscal Year 2009, and that is only one federal database among many others."

The DATA Act does not, however, endorse Devaney's recommendation from the hearing and instead calls for agency-reported data. It also does not require recipients to report on the further payout of their contract dollars in sub awards.

Vice President Joe Biden also announced an initiative, as part of the White House's executive order that emphasized holding government more accountable and promoting transparency through digital reporting.

"Let me be clear, there is no difference in what the vice president wants to accomplish and what I want to accomplish," said Issa. In a statement he added that the concept of a Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board is being developed collaboratively with the Obama administration.

For more:
- go to the hearing page with video and written testimonies
- see Issa's proposed legislation (.pdf)

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