A Federal Shopping List to Curb Waste, Fraud and Abuse
Policy + Politics

A Federal Shopping List to Curb Waste, Fraud and Abuse

© Yuri Gripas / Reuters

These days there isn’t much that Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) can agree on. The two most powerful members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have spent months sparring over whether the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups. Now, however, the unlikely pair seems to be uniting around a common enemy; wasteful spending within the federal government.

Issa and Cummings together (yes, really) have sponsored legislation that would create a single website where every federal agency across the sprawling federal government would be required to list all of their expenditures, with the exception of classified material every month. The measure, similar to a separate bill approved by the Senate this week, is intended to strengthen accountability and transparency.

Related: Government Wastes More Money Than You Think

“The American taxpayer deserves to know when, where and how his or her money is spent,” Issa said.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) is supposed to be an easy way to keep track of how much and on what the government is spending. In theory, it sounds simple enough—have each agency submit a running tab of where its money is going, including reprogrammed funds and transfers. The list would be accessible to anyone on the website, so taxpayers could surf through and see exactly where their tax dollars are going.

"The DATA Act will turn federal spending information into open spending data – a valuable new public resource that strengthens democratic accountability and spurs innovation,” Data Transparency Coalition Executive Director Hudson Hollister told The Washington Post.

Currently, it’s difficult for taxpayers to get a look at how their tax dollars are being spent—aside from the occasional, scathing inspectors’ general reports showing waste or misuse of federal funds. For instance, one of the latest government audits revealed the State Department misplaced $6 billion contracting dollars.

The idea behind the website—is that it would curb this kind of irresponsibility. The logic goes that if agencies are required to submit information on each of their expenditures every month, they would be more cautious about where the money is actually going.

Related: Government Blatantly Wastes $30 Billion This Year

The current measure does not set data reporting standards, it instead, designates that responsibility to the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget.

The legislation says the agencies inspectors general would be required to review the financial statements submitted to the website, however, it is unclear how that would be enforced.

This is extremely important –especially since some departments haven’t been able to be successfully audited by their IG’s for years.

For instance, the Pentagon hasn’t balanced its books in nearly two decades. In fact, its internal auditor tasked with investigating how DOD spends its money, has a backlog of more than 24,000 cases worth about $574 billion.

So, although the idea of curbing government waste and increasing transparency has successfully united lawmakers on Capitol Hill, whether the legislation could be effective still remains in question.

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