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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Simple Tech Tool Could Cut Billions in Spending, Help Both Parties

One way of lowering the tone of rhetoric on political issues would be to make it more fact-based.

If the White House wants to try to find any kind of common ground with Rep. Issa and his Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Investigations, and to achieve its own goal of paring federal spending, it would do well to support one of Issa's pet projects, passage of S. 303, the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act.

That bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, died in the last Congress when a conference committee could not reconcile Senate and House versions. It would require all government agencies to adopt a uniform financial data standard for both their internal financial information and whatever financial info they collected from the private sector in regulatory filings.

Why is that important? Today, there's a wide range of reporting software and procedures which mean that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to quickly and easily either find out whether a government agency is efficient or to make the information that companies have to report to government easily understood and scrutinized.

While it wasn't named, most believe the best "standard" for reporting under S. 303 would be the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL). It has the potential to not only cut government waste and inefficiency, but to help businesses make better decisions and cut their supply chain waste, among other benefits. The US lags behind the rest of the world in widespread implementation of XBRL.

Issa has pointed out that the GAO's annual review of the federal government's consolidated financial statements has never produced a clean audit opinion, because agencies use inconsistent standards.

Beyond the auditing problems, by not standardizing on XBRL the government is denying itself an important tool to improve decision-making and interagency cooperation.

-W. David Stephenson, HuffingtonPost.com
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