In testimony delivered today before the House Oversight Committee, Gene Dodaro, who serves as the Comptroller General at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), called for Congressional action on the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) to enable the proper tracking of federal spending information. Dodaro spoke about a GAO report released this morning that identified several new programs considered to be wasteful or otherwise duplicative.
Dodaro, who is the GAO’s highest ranking official, said that “the DATA Act is one of the single biggest things you could do” to help identify and eliminate these wasteful programs. “It would standardize the data so you could compare the data across agencies — which you can’t do now.”
“One of the most troubling things in GAO’s report is the number of agencies that have no idea just how much taxpayer money they are spending on their programs,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), in an interview with USA TODAY ahead of the hearing.
The Comptroller General’s remarks come as the Senate is said to be very close to passing its version of the DATA Act. An earlier House version of the bill, sponsored by House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Issa and Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), passed the lower chamber 388-1 in November 2013.
“Right now, you don’t really have data standards at all,” said Dodaro in response to a question at the hearing about how the DATA Act would improve data standards over time.
He went on to add that the DATA Act would require the Treasury Department in particular to “work with stakeholders both inside and outside government” to establish comprehensive government-wide data standards.
“I think effective oversight by the Congress is absolutely necessary,” said Dodaro in response to a question about how to make sure the DATA Act can ultimately deliver to its fullest potential.
“There are a lot of tools in place,” Dodaro continued, “and if you get the DATA Act, you’ll have the information — and it’s basically just rolling up your sleeves to get the work done properly.”
Rep. Issa will join with Senate DATA Act sponsors, administration officials, open data advocates and innovators at the Data Transparency Summit on April 29th in Washington, DC. The summit will work towards a common vision for implementing open data mandates like the DATA Act at all levels of government.