Two academics who set out to analyze government grants to nonprofit organizations found that the databases housing that information continue to resist easy use.
The House passed Nov. 19 the DATA Act (H.R. 2061), which requires federal agencies and departments to release more complete and higher-quality spending data. The bill also shifts oversight of federal spending transparency dashboard USASpending.gov from the Office of Management and Budget to the Treasury Department.
A congressional beta website for tracking legislation more than a year in the making will soon become the default source of bill data, the Library of Congress announced earlier this month.
The United States made six new commitments, including expanding open data and modernizing the Freedom of Information Act, in an updated national action plan released in draft form by the White House Oct. 31. The United States issued the draft set of commitments during the Open Government Summit in London.
Freedom of Information Act processing at many agencies has been delayed because the majority of FOIA professionals were furloughed as non-excepted employees during the government's 16-day shutdown. Unfortunately, the FOIA statute does not address government shutdowns, writes Kristen Mitchell, a facilitator at the National Archives and Records Administration's office of government information services, in an Oct. 24 blog post.
Since USASpending.gov's launch 6 years ago, the quality of financial data reported by agencies has worsened, said Tom Lee, director of the Sunlight Foundation's Sunlight Labs. "According to USASpending.gov the United States spent zero dollars on Medicare insurance and zero dollars on Medicare prescription drugs in 2011, 2012 and 2013," Lee told a Senate Committee.
The Government Accountability Office is concerned that the Government Accountability and Transparency Board is hamstrung because it has no dedicated funding, no role in actual policy implementation and has not developed mechanisms for obtaining input from non-federal fund recipients.
The office within the National Archives and Records Administration meant to review agency Freedom of Information Act policies and procedures hasn't really done so, says the Government Accountability Office. Those policies matter, because they control how agencies respond to document requests – but agencies can go for years without updating their procedures to accommodate new FOIA requirements.
Measured government spending on service contracts fell $48 billion in fiscal 2012 compared to its peak in 2009, a Sept. 3 Center for Strategic and International Studies report (.pdf) says. Total services contract obligation dropped to $308 billion from $356 billion in 2009, the report says. All dollars are inflation adjust for fiscal 2012.
Congress should continue making XML and bulk access to legislative data a priority recommends the Legislative Branch Bulk Data Task Force. In a task force report, dated Dec. 31, 2012 but only recently made public as part of the Legislative Branch appropriations bill (.pdf), the group requests authorization to continue overseeing congressional open data efforts.