Data compilation and efficient management is important in all private and government sectors, and there are certain data standards to follow as well. Data cleansing services and data entry services play a significant role in the compilation and management of vital data and maintaining data integrity. Government agencies at every level have various departments each of which has specific processes, regulations and requirements. Most of the data in government offices is on paper and often bulk document scanning becomes necessary to convert it into electronic format. Government agencies at the city, state or federal levels deal with different types of documents including but not limited to:
- Tax documents
- Business licences
- Financial records
- Birth and death certificates
- Marriage certificates
- City Council Minutes
Across the globe government agencies are implementing digital transformation projects and initiatives for increasing efficiency and data transparency, improving and aligning processes, better access and management of information, and enhancing citizen satisfaction and trust. The U.S. federal government requires organizations to use consensus-based data standards approved by international and national standards groups whenever they are available and appropriate to be used.
What are data standards? They comprise documented agreements on representation, definition, format, structuring, transmission, tagging, manipulation, use, and management of data. They are a very significant part of improving data quality that helps in better decision making.
Speaking of data standards, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) have established a new Data Standards Committee that is responsible for maintaining established standards and developing new data definitions or data elements. The OMB, Treasury and federal agencies have taken steps to implement the DATA Act (Digital Accountability and Transparency Act) of 2014. The DATA Act requires the OMB and Treasury to establish government-wide data standards and requires federal agencies to begin reporting financial and payment data in accordance with these standards by May 2017. More work is however, needed for effective implementation of this Act.
Congress passed the law in 2014 to implement standardized data reporting by federal agencies with the goal of putting more federal spending data online. The aim of this Act is to make information on federal expenditure more easily accessible and transparent. Now agencies are facing the first deadline to report data in compliance with the law.
Audits by the GAO (Government Accountability Office) revealed ongoing challenges with agencies’ implementation of the law. These include shortcomings in guidance on data reporting issued by the OMB.
So what are the challenges in implementing the Act? For instance, the GAO has found problems with financial management and technology that could affect the accuracy of the data reported in compliance with the law.
- Although the new Act represents progress, more remains to be done to establish a data governance structure that is consistent with leading practices to ensure the integrity of data standards over time.
- The lack of a robust and institutionalized data governance structure for managing efforts going forward also presents risks regarding the ability of agencies to meet the statutory deadlines in the event that priorities shift over time.
- GAO identified four overarching categories of challenges reported by agencies that may hinder their ability to effectively and efficiently implement the DATA Act – system integration issues, lack of resources, evolving and complex reporting requirement, and inadequate guidance.
According to the lawmakers, the OMB and Treasury are integral to ensure effective implementation – including setting data standards, issuing agency guidelines and identifying opportunities to reduce reporting burden for federal awardees. The GAO has encouraged OMB to provide additional guidance to agencies. This will help address issues related to agency financial information, systems and internal controls, and reporting challenges related to agency DATA Act report submissions. Additional guidance is necessary to address issues related to clarity, consistency and data quality.
Chairman Jason Chaffetez, ranking member Elijah Cummings and other members of the House Oversight Committee have sent a letter to the leaders of the Treasury and the OMB urging them to address deficiencies in the implementation of the DATA Act.