The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that will enable users to keep track of federal spending online, in an effort to enhance government transparency. Known as the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), the bill calls for the creation of an independent body to archive and store all expenditure records within a single website. Government agencies and recipients of federal grants or contracts would also be required to submit their records in a uniform format, using identifier codes and standardized markup language to make these data more searchable.
Wednesday's vote comes on the heels of a recently uncovered scandal involving the US General Services Administration (GSA), which spent more than $800,000 in federal funds on a lavish Las Vegas conference. According to the bill's supporters, this is exactly the kind of institutional profligacy that the DATA act is designed to mitigate.
"This is designed to save money," Representative Carolyn Maloney (D - NY) told reporters. "Currently available data on federal spending is incomplete, confusing and inconsistent. This act would centralize and simplify the convoluted reporting that is in place now."
It's also worth noting that the act's passage comes just a few days after a survey from the Sunlight Foundation found that only 25 percent of all House Appropriations Committee hearings are archived online, despite the fact that current rules require all hearings to be streamed and made publicly available "to the maximum extent possible." If the DATA act makes it through the Senate, however, taxpayers may soon have greater access to federal spending records, and greater insight into where their tax dollars actually go.