Warner, Portman introduce DATA Act

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have introduced bipartisan legislation to improve and expand federal fiscal accountability.  The legislation requires more standardized reporting of federal spending posted to a single website, allowing citizens and agencies to more easily identify improper payments, waste and fraud.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), first introduced by Sen. Warner in June 2011 and reintroduced today in a revised form with Sen. Portman as chief co-sponsor, is a Senate companion to legislation introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chairman Issa’s legislation passed the House in April.

The DATA Act requires the development of government-wide financial data standards to make it easier to compare federal spending across federal agencies. It also requires that the standardized data be analyzed to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and improper payments. In addition, the DATA Act takes steps to simplify financial reporting and improve the quality of the spending data, and it requires that the information be posted on USASpending.gov website, which initially was developed when Sen. Portman served as director of U.S. Office of Management & Budget in 2006-07.

“This legislation will allow us to track the full cycle of federal spending on one website, and that should be incredibly helpful to both taxpayers and policy makers,” Sen. Warner said. “The DATA Act creates a powerful new tool that should improve the way the federal government does business. This legislation is an example of how Washington is supposed to work — across the aisle and on both sides of the Capitol.”

“At a time when the government is running trillion-dollar deficits on top of a record $16 trillion debt, Washington should be doing all it can to track how taxpayer dollars are spent.  Better visibility and public disclosure of our government’s $3 trillion in yearly spending is critical to identifying and eliminating waste,” Sen. Portman said.  “Our bill would reform and significantly improve USASpending.gov by strengthening federal financial transparency, empowering taxpayers to see how their money is spent, and providing a better tool for eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.”

“With Congress preparing to make momentous decisions about the federal budget, it’s more important than ever that the public have clear information about government spending,” said Katherine McFate, president and CEO of OMB Watch, a nonprofit government transparency and accountability watchdog organization. “The DATA Act will provide an unprecedented level of transparency and create critical new tools to track and analyze federal spending and hold officials accountable for their decisions.”

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