New Progress, New Leadership at GATB

The effort to create lasting, sustainable transparency and accountability across government is a long-term one, and one that the President and the Vice President are committed to seeing through. That’s why last June, the President created the Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB).Using the lessons learned from implementing the Recovery Act, the GATB was charged with recommending ways to improve the tracking and display of Federal spending data and broaden the use of cutting-edge fraud detection technologies. 

Since then, the GATB has been working closely with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (Recovery Board), which established a new benchmark for how we should collect, display and oversee Federal spending data under the Recovery Act through and its innovative Recovery Operations Center. Together with the Recovery Board, Federal agencies, OMB and others, the GATB is a critical driver of continued progress in our forthcoming efforts to make Federal spending data more complete, more transparent, and more reliable.

Last December, the GATB submitted to the President its initial report, containing key recommendations for concrete steps the government should take to enhance transparency and accountability. Today, the GATB provided the President with an update on its progress on the three steps they recommended taking.

  1. Leveraging cutting-edge technology to improve government-wide accountability.The GATB recommended expanding the use of cutting-edge tools that can help detect and prevent waste, fraud and abuse, and creating a centralized platform for ensuring accountability in spending across the government. To advance this cause, the Recovery Board has partnered with the GATB to initiate pilots with both agencies and Inspectors General on how best to deploy new forensic and analytical capabilities government-wide. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) launched the President’s Do Not Pay tool to help Federal agencies prevent the types of improper payments that have plagued government for too long – including pension payments to the deceased and payments to fraudulent contractors. In April 2012, OMB issued a memorandum directing agencies to use this tool. By next spring, we expect every major Federal agency will be leveraging the Do Not Pay solution to combat improper payments.  Collectively, these solutions are moving us closer to the GATB’s vision of a common platform for government-wide spending accountability, and the GATB will continue to drive us towards greater centralization over time.
  2. Streamline and integrate how we collect and display data.The GATB recommended working to create a single electronic collection system for grant related data to eliminate system redundancies, and reduce recipients’ burden of reporting to multiple agencies. To advance this idea, the Recovery Board is both exploring the use of as a template for displaying they type of spending data currently displayed on www.USAspending.govand also launching a pilot with selected grant recipients to see whether can be used as a centralized collection point for grant data. Further, the GATB is evaluating how existing system consolidation efforts, like the General Services Administration’s (GSA) System for Award Management, to integrate collection of spending data and create a single, cohesive source for these data across the Federal government. In addition, Federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services are hard at work in developing new methods for standardizing Federal grant and contract data.
  3. Migrate to a universal ID system for all Federal awards.The GATB identified steps needed to move the government toward a universal award ID system to ensure uniformity and consistency of data and enhance transparency of government spending. This effort is critical to make sure that we aren’t just providing the public with more data, but rather data that is more reliable, easier to use, and more meaningful in tracking how Federal dollars are spent.  Accordingly, efforts are underway to assess the feasibility of implementing a universal award ID, as well as determining the “intelligent” components that would underpin it. In doing so, the GATB is engaging with other agencies, in particular Treasury, to assess the costs and benefits of a universal award ID, and determining how to move forward as expeditiously as possible.

These first steps cannot – and won’t – be the last. Already, OMB is also developing a new Statement of Spending that will make transparent information about where and how Federal agencies spend tax dollars part of agencies’ annual audited financial statements. We will be piloting this new statement with a number of agencies in their financial reports that will be submitted in November of this year. 

We will continue to work in close concert with Congress, Federal agencies, inspectors general, recipients of Federal funds, and other stakeholders to root out waste and drive efficiencies in Federal spending.  To help lead this effort, the President has announced his intent to name Richard (Dick) T. Ginman, Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy at the Department of Defense, to serve as the new Chairman of the GATB. Mr. Ginman has more than 37 years of experience in the areas of contracting and financial management, and has served as a vocal leader on the GATB in driving progress in Federal spending transparency and accountability. Under Mr. Ginman’s leadership, I am confident that the GATB will continue to serve as an indispensable voice in pushing the Federal government to function more efficiently, effectively, accountably for the American people. 

And ultimately, creating this kind of government – one that is more transparent and accountable to the American people than ever before – is something that the President has been committed to since day one. 

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