House Passes New Transparency Act

According to the requirements of HR 2146, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, all state, local, and tribal governments and any government entity that receives appropriated funds (directly or through a subgrant or award) shall submit quarterly reports to a newly established Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board. The bill, sponsored by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), has received a surprising amount of bipartisan support and unanimously passed the House on Wednesday, April 25. A companion measure (S 1222), sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) has not received particular attention since it was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs last June.

The DATA Act creates a universal electronic tracking system to manage new reporting requirements for any recipient of Federal funds. Exemptions can be made if the total amount of Federal funding received in any calendar or fiscal year does not exceed $100,000 or no recipient transaction exceeds $24,999. Federal agencies are also required to report all Federal obligations and expenditures identified by program and budget function. Civil penalties would apply for noncompliance with the requirements of the Act.

The new Transparency Board is modeled after the ARRA Recovery Accountability and Transparency (RAT) Board. The Board would create common data elements for required reporting elements and establish data reporting standards. The Board would also establish a Federal “accountability portal” that would combine information submitted by funding recipients and Federal agencies along with other submitted data; allow Federal agencies to verify that only eligible recipients are, in fact, receiving Federal funds; and also provide a mechanism for Federal agencies, Inspectors General, and law enforcement agencies to track Federal awards and recipients in an effort to detect and prevent waste, fraud and abuse. The bill authorizes $51 million per year through Fiscal Year 2018 for creation and management of the new Board.

During the Wednesday deliberations, the bill was amended to address concerns that have grown since the GSA scandal. The amendment reduces the amount of money an agency could spend on a conference to 80 percent of the amount spent in 2010 and cap the amount that could be spent on any single conference at $500,000 if the agency is not the primary sponsor. The language also restricts to 50 the number of employees from any single agency who could travel to international conferences.

You may read the bill text online at