The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made significant progress with its DATA Act reporting, but the agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) says that more improvements are necessary to meet the legislation’s objective of transparency in Federal spending.

The August 13 report from the DHS OIG documents agency progress since a 2017 audit. For example, auditors found that DHS has greatly reduced misalignments in its procurement and financial assistance award data – from nearly $1.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 to $264 million in FY2019. OIG credits this improvement with a new quarterly spending data quality review that DHS implemented to enable better tracking of Federal spending, but also says it could still be more effective.

OIG categorized DHS spending data quality as moderate, meaning that the data was complete and accurate but not timely. DHS failed to report 67 percent of sampled financial assistance award elements within 30 days of the award date due to system limitations, per the report. “Although DHS works to mitigate this risk through its quarterly review process, the timeliness of financial assistance reporting remains a recurring challenge,” OIG wrote.

While DHS has also generally implemented and consistently used governmentwide data standards, OIG auditors found there’s still room to improve reporting for certain data elements. Specifically, data elements did not consistently comply with government standards on award descriptions, place of performance, unique record identifier, and awardee or recipient legal entity.

Since its 2017 review, DHS did develop a data quality plan in line with Federal standards, and the first version was finalized in March 2019.

OIG recommends that the Office of the CFO:

  • Improve alignment of DHS budgetary data with the authoritative sources that the treasury broker uses for DATA Act validation;
  • Strengthen the internal controls within DHS quarterly corrective action plan process;
  • Improve the quality of financial award data information;
  • Develop and apply effective solutions to improve implementation and use of governmentwide financial data standards; and
  • Strengthen the DHS Data Quality Plan to achieve DATA Act reporting objectives.

DHS concurred with all five recommendations.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.