Corporate Finance & Governance | Leadership / Management | Legislative / Regulatory | XBRL

DATA Act is back, and not a moment too soon

The DATA Act lives, and thank God for that. Given Washington's taste for the scandalous recently, we could all use a little more government transparency in our lives.

If you recall, we're talking about the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act. First introduced in 2011, the original bill would have standardized the ways in which federal spending information is reported. It also would have created an accurate and searchable online database that would have let all Americans see how their government is spending their money.

Alas, the original bill passed the House in April 2012 before dying in the Senate.

Now, it has been re-introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the committee's ranking Democratic member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland). The bill has passed the committee and will now be considered by the full House. It also is being sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio.

"Advocates for government transparency, crusaders against waste and fraud, and Big Data industry boosters all have reasons to celebrate today," said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition. "For the first time, we have a nearly-identical proposal embraced by both parties and both houses of Congress to open federal spending data through standardization and publication."

And not a moment too soon.

In the interest of full disclosure, the MACPA fully supports both the DATA Act and the work of the Data Transparency Coalition. We are a continuing member of the Coalition, and MACPA members were in Washington earlier this week to seek support for the DATA Act.

"We think this is critical legislation at a critical time that will allow stronger transparency and accountability, and can play a vital role in restoring the public trust in government," MACPA Executive Director Tom Hood has said.

And for those of you who saw the words "data" and "transparency" above and immediately thought of XBRL, congratulations -- you win the door prize. Though the legislation doesn't specifically call for XBRL as the standardized data-tagging language of choice, it almost undoubtedly will be high on the list of options. And why not? XBRL has too many benefits for even American politicians to ignore -- although something tells me they'll try.

Let's just get this done, shall we? Our government doesn't have to be as inefficient and utterly incompetent as it appears most of the time. A little standardization of the numbers will go a long way toward restoring some fiscal sanity in Washington. The DATA Act might just be the answer.

Wait … did I just use "Washington" and "sanity" in the same sentence? Silly me.

Learn more about the DATA Act here:


Bill Sheridan