Section 5 of the DATA Act is based on an ambitious vision for transforming federal grantee and contractor reporting. Today, recipients of grants and contracts have to report their use of federal funds using document-based forms, and have to submit their information – often, the same information – to multiple systems all over the government.
If the government adopted a standardized open data structure for grantee and contractor reporting, then software could automatically pull most of this information from their management systems and deliver it to the federal government. Transparency would improve. Compliance costs would drop.
The DATA Act requires the White House OMB to test this vision of standardized data fields in grantee and contractor reporting. OMB has appointed the Department of Health and Human Services to run the grantee side. HHS has designed a robust pilot program, identified thousands of data fields, and invited grantees to submit their reports using standardized data instead of old-fashioned documents.
However, on the contractor side, OMB is not following the law. There is no entity clearly in charge of a contractor reporting pilot program. OMB’s efforts to standardize contractor payroll reporting – but no other aspects of contractor reporting – do not match the law’s required scope.
Last month, Republicans and Democrats on the House Oversight Committee asked OMB to present a new plan for contractor reporting that matches the ambitious vision of the DATA Act. With a letter to OMB, bipartisan members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have today done the same.
Open data reporting by grantees and contractors can deliver better transparency for citizens and more effective, data-driven management for agencies. It will also reduce grantees’ and contractors’ compliance costs. Citizens, agencies, and recipients all benefit from Congress’ willingness to insist that Section 5 be followed.
Read the full letter here.