WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced bipartisan legislation to improve and expand federal fiscal accountability. The legislation requires standardized reporting of federal spending to be posted to a single website, allowing citizens to track spending in their communities and agencies to more easily identify improper payments, waste and fraud. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), which Sens. Warner and Portman also introduced in the previous session of Congress, is a Senate companion to legislation introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49), the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7).
“This legislation will allow us to track the full cycle of federal spending by ‘following the money’ on a single website, and that should be incredibly helpful to both taxpayers and policy makers,” Sen. Warner said. “The DATA Act will require spending transparency at the program level and will aid our efforts to make smarter investments while reducing improper payments and fraud. 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.”
“The American people deserve accurate, timely, and complete checkbook level spending information,” said Chairman Issa. “The DATA Act will standardize and open federal spending data so that those inside and outside of government can actually use spending data to save taxpayer dollars by cutting waste, fighting fraud, and spending smarter.”
"By providing taxpayers with information about how their money is being spent, the DATA Act will empower them to hold the government accountable and will make our government more effective and efficient," said Ranking Member Cummings.
During a Budget Committee Government Performance Task Force hearing last week chaired by Sen. Warner, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) voiced support for the intent of the DATA Act in addressing duplication. “This is essential… It's one of the basic building blocks of tackling this issue,” GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro testified. “Unless there is a legislative framework in place with clear data standards and public reporting to the Congress on federal programs, addressing duplication will not happen. I commend your and Chairman Issa’s efforts in that area.”
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 spending data. It also requires that the information be posted on the USASpending.gov website, which initially was developed when Sen. Portman served as director of U.S. Office of Management & Budget in 2006-07.
Sen. Warner, chairman of the Budget Committee’s bipartisan Government Performance Task Force, has worked consistently to protect taxpayers by demanding greater efficiency and better performance from federal agencies and programs. Sen. Warner was the lead sponsor of the 2010 Government Performance and Modernization Act, which is now law and requires federal agencies to annually report on their highest and lowest performing programs. Sen. Warner also has been a leading voice on Capitol Hill for the reform or elimination of federal programs that overlap or are ineffective.
A summary of the DATA Act can be read here, and the legislation's full text is below: