Digital Liberty signed a letter from the Data Transparency Coalition to Chairman Carper (D-DE) and Senator Coburn (R-OK) of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee urging them to support the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act which was introduced by Senators Warner (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH). The DATA Act would foster accountability by requiring greater transparency in government.
Current laws allow the government to forego publishing a significant amount of very important data; even when data is published it is often difficult for the public to access due to its inconsistent or complicated formatting. When citizens don’t have access to clear and accurate data, government can hide waste and abuse.
The DATA Act is the solution. If the bill passes, the Treasury Department will track government-wide spending and require agencies to publish data in consistent, machine-readable formatting. This would allow government-wide searches, which are currently impossible. Additionally, the DATA Act requires agencies to report internal data on USASpending.gov, not merely the external grants and contracts which are currently reported. As stated in the letter, “Fully implemented, it empowers agencies and their inspectors general to deploy data analytics to hone in on waste and abuse, potentially deterring it before it occurs.”
Unfortunately, some senators support a substitute amendment which would remove the accountability platform from the bill. Hudson Hollister explained in an op-ed for The Hill that the benefits of including the accountability platform far outweigh the costs. While it’s true that the accountability platform will cost $20 million, it will directly eliminate $100 million worth of waste and identify several billion dollars more because accountability enables inspectors to use data in the fight against fraud. That’s an excellent return on the taxpayers’ investment, and one which will drastically increase accuracy in data. “Open data is no good unless it's accurate,” Hollister wrote.
If Congress wants a transparent and accountable government, it must pass the DATA Act. Consistency and government-wide reporting will cut down on waste, fraud and abuse.