Expert says data on federal transparency site is wrong

In his prepared remarks for Friday’s hearing, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Controller Danny
Werfel argued the administration has made large strides towards online
transparency but has been held back by the lack of standardized data across the government.

“While we have accomplished many things, there is still much work to be done. The public cannot realize the full utility of transparent Federal information if the data across agencies are incompatible,” Werfel said.

Lee said the administration has failed to improve the quality of the grant data or respond to a Freedom of Information Act request that would allow Sunlight to evaluate the accuracy of the contract data.

He acknowledged a “tremendous amount of enthusiasm” from the administration for increasing transparency on spending, but said most improvements have been cosmetic.

“To date, most of the accomplishments around spending transparency have been tied to the presentation of the data, not the reporting,” Lee said. “But the data is still tied to systems created in the 1970s. The data has been inaccurate for a long time but no one has gone back to fix [those systems].”

Lee said he believes the OMB understands the problem and is trying to fix it, but emphasized that the data are too crucial to allow erroneous reports on government spending to be publicly available.

“These are the systems used not only for public oversight, but for the government to engage in larger planning efforts,” Lee said. “These are vitally important systems that have been ignored for far too long.”

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