Data Coalition Chief Executive Officer Nick Hart issued the following statement on the publication of new open data from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Treasury on the federal Paycheck Protection Program established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act:
The Data Coalition members appreciate the Executive Branch’s recent publication of new data resources on some of the recipients and distribution of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. The publication of open data is an approach for enhancing government transparency and accountability. However, the Data Coalition is disappointed this information was only published following a Freedom of Information Act request, instead of proactively in compliance with the requirements signed into law by the President as part of the OPEN Data Government Act in 2019. The OPEN Government Data Act rightfully establishes an expectation that non-sensitive government data be made open by default.
The recently-published Paycheck Protection Program open data has substantial quality issues that should be addressed by the Treasury Department and SBA as a matter of good practice and in accordance with the Information Quality Act, the OPEN Government Data Act, and other existing federal laws. For example, the application of basic data standards for text fields in the administrative records will vastly improve analytical capabilities for researchers and oversight officials alike.
The Treasury Department has yet to name its Chief Data Officer under the OPEN Government Data Act, which was required to be designated over a year ago. The Data Coalition calls on the Treasury Department Secretary to rapidly designate a Chief Data Officer who can support compliance with the important provisions of that law, as well as to begin addressing data quality and accessibility issues affecting transparency and accountability related to government’s spending on the coronavirus pandemic.
The American public has a right to know how its government is using taxpayer dollars and this requires that the government publish high-quality data. The Data Coalition members look forward to working with the Executive Branch to continue promoting high-quality, accessible, and usable data.