Issa Introduces Sweeping Open Government, Spending Transparency Reforms

June 13, 2011

WASHINGTON- Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a long-time advocate for open government, will today introduce the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act, which will establish an independent body to track federal spending, including grants, contracts, loans and agencies’ internal expenses, on a single electronic platform, using consistent reporting standards and data identifiers, and making all of the information available to the public.

“Americans have the right to know what their government is doing with their money,” said Issa. “Incompatible technologies, inaccurate data, and a lack of common standards impede transparency. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act will revolutionize the accessibility of government information.”

“Today we have ‘analog transparency’, in the sense that anybody can file endless Freedom of Information Act requests with one hundred plus separate federal agencies and receive, maybe, after months, thousands of pages of scanned documents that, if carefully perused, might yield up the same information that ought to be able to be derived with a keystroke.”

The DATA Act makes several major pro-transparency reforms, including:

• Establishing a universal standard of recipient reporting for money received from the federal government directly to an independent database. This has widely been credited as the key to the success of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board in catching and preventing fraud, waste, and abuse in stimulus spending.

• Collecting all agency expenditure data and combining it with the recipient reported data. This will allow agencies, Congress, and citizen watchdogs to discover waste and inefficiency in government and expose systematic financial management problems that lead to improper payments.

• Creating a permanent successor to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the body established by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to ensure transparency, and giving that board similar powers to ensure all federal spending is transparent to the public. The new board is designated as the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board (FAST Board).

• Directing the new FAST Board to establish common identifiers and consistent reporting standards for all federally collected data.

The FAST Board will be tasked solely with receiving, organizing, and publishing federal spending information. Chairman Issa first met with Vice President Biden in November of last year to discuss spending transparency and using the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board as a model for building a transparent and accountable government. Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board Chairman Earl Devaney will testify at an Oversight Committee hearing on federal spending transparency and the solutions that the bill proposes on Tuesday.

The text of the legislation can be viewed here. A section by section summary of the legislation can be viewed here.

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