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Trump and Transparency

Trump and Transparency

The DATA Act will allow us to track how government spends our money

May 9 is the date federal data must go online

Excerpted from JudicialWatch.org

One of the most consequential sunshine experiments in recent history, the Digital Accountability & Transparency Act, is slated to kick into a higher gear soon. May 9 is the deadline for government agencies to provide standardized data for a searchable data base, USAspending.gov.

The DATA Act proposition is truly revolutionary: citizens should be able to closely track how the government is spending their money.

All federal agencies that make contracts, grants and loans are required to participate in the DATA Act. The May 9 launch is sure to be bumpy and several agencies have already informed project managers that they won’t meet the deadline. But the vast information project appears to be on track.

The implications of so much new financial information online and easily searchable are enormous. It’s “follow the money” on steroids, opening up new terrain for policy makers, academics, journalists and entrepreneurs. A more transparent money flow could pave the way for better policies and systems, improved economic performance and business models, and shine a brighter light on waste, fraud and abuse.

The DATA Act is in the pipeline. But a new bill before Congress would create an even more powerful transparency tool. While the DATA Act focuses on spending, the OPEN Government Data Act proposes that all government data—with exceptions for national security, privacy and other concerns—be placed online. The “Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act” (full title) requires that all federal agencies publish their data in an accessible, easily readable open format. It creates a single portal for government data and strips the private sector contractor Dun & Bradstreet of its proprietary hold over public data through control of the current coding system.

How big a deal are the two acts?

“In 2016, the federal government took in $3 trillion and spent roughly $3.5 trillion, accounting for over one-fifth of the gross domestic product,” Data Coalition Executive Director Hudson Hollister told the House Oversight Committee in March. “By revenue, that’s bigger than the ten biggest companies in the world combined. Our federal government is not just the largest organization in human history. It is also the most complex.”

$6.5 trillion flowing through government channels generates a lot of waste, misuse and corruption. The DATA Act and OPEN Government Data Act, by providing more access to government information, empowers citizen watchdogs of all stripes. Donald Trump can give transparency a boost by getting behind these two efforts.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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