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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Treasury official calls for quick Data Act demos

The three-year schedule to implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, a measure that puts federal financial data on a single, machine-readable standard and requires its publication to the public online, might be too ambitious, said Dick Gregg, fiscal assistant secretary of the Treasury and the executive in charge of implementing the law.

"It will be difficult and maybe impossible in some areas to hit all the timelines," Gregg said on May 20 at the Federal Financial Management Conference in Washington, D.C., before an audience of government accountants and financial managers who will be on the front lines of implementing the changes required under the Data Act.
The challenge is for Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget to come up with a standard for publishing financial data, then convert federal financial management systems to that standard. There was no money included in the law to finance the effort, but agencies will surely need some resources to implement changes.
"I'm not sure what the approach of OMB will be when agencies make requests," Gregg said. "There will be some costs. It's important to work together to figure out how to minimize the cost of doing this." One way is to leverage gains made in the Treasury's own internal goal of improving financial transparency through the management of the USASpending.gov website, which recently moved to Treasury from OMB as part of the fiscal 2014 budget.
The shift to a federal-first approach to agency financial management could help streamline the process, Gregg pointed out. "Shared services is a force multiplier," Gregg said, because consolidation of financial management at the four providers means that agencies will be able to outsource some of their compliance. "The sooner we can move more agencies into shared services, the easier it's going to be for them to implement the Data Act," Gregg said.
The financial management community will reap the benefits as well, Gregg said. The new emphasis on standardization means that chief financial officers can shift from systems implementation and operation to the more interesting and rewarding work of managing programs.
-Adam Mazmanian, FCW.com
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