House Passes Bill To Track All Federal Spending On Single Website

The federal government has never exactly been known for its transparency, especially when it involves exactly where all our tax money goes every year. But things could get slightly clearer thanks to legislation passed yesterday by the House of Representatives.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) creates an independent board to track all federal spending on a single website.

Another dig against federal agencies is that they often use different formats and methods for tracking their cash. DATA would require everyone to report their spending in a standardized format.

“The winners with this effort will be the American people,” said California Congressman Darrell Issa, the bill’s chief sponsor. “The American people … will find it possible to get meaningful information about where their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.”

“This is designed to save money,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York. “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.”

The bill now requires the approval of the Senate, hopefully en route to the Oval Office.

House passes measure to detail gov’t spending online [ComputerWorld.com via TheVerge]

Comments

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  1. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    Oh noes. I hope that my federal grant money on the study of the reproductive habits of the spider mite in Fazio’s sauce doesn’t get disclosed.

    It does cost $26 million per year. I swear it. We need that cash to fund trooper escorted high speed caravans down the Garden State Parkway.

  2. thezone says:

    I wonder how this will work with the department of defense and secret agencies. My guess is they will get a pass and then Mr Issa will point out waste everywhere but there.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      I doubt the intent is to have line items for secret projects and shadow agencies. It’s probably just general overall budget numbers.

      So you won’t see line items for Area 51, the Office of Media Control, the Kennedy Conspirator’s Annual Reunion and Picnic, the Fast and Furious Project, the First Lady’s Vacation Fund, etc. etc.

      • thezone says:

        Well I guess I don’t see all the use then. We already get overall numbers from these agencies. I want to make sure that this is useful and all agencies need to give the exact same level of detail. If that’s the case then I’m all for it and Kudos to Issa.

        • StarKillerX says:

          So do you really expect a detailed breakdown and specifics for secret projects?

          • kujospam says:

            Even if they called it Secret Project 400132 and then the next secret project would be 400133. That still is ok with me because then I can ask my congressmen to check to make sure that , hey this one that costs 50billion, is it needed? Does it look like it is going to work? Because I don’t expect congressmen to pick up on everything unless it is some dirty thing about their opponents.

    • and_another_thing says:

      If it doesn’t at least say how much those three-letter agencies are budgeted, including anything that’s slid into other appropriations, then it’s going to be of questionable value.

      Even if we don’t get to see the details of what those agencies fund, knowing how much they consume overall could be useful leverage against legislators.

    • Skipweasel says:

      I would imagine they’ll just issue a SOPA/PIPA (or whatever we end up with) takedown, claiming that the information is proprietary and covered by IP rights.

  3. eldergias says:

    And what is the penalty if the agency does not report its data?

  4. BigHeadEd says:

    “The winners with this effort will be the American people,”

    No, the winners will be those that get new government jobs in the soon to be announced new federal agency that will be developing and managing this mess.

  5. AllanG54 says:

    I don’t even want to guess how many pages this will be. I wonder if there will be some kind of search function.

  6. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Cool! So as taxpayers we get to adjust the salaries of all elected officials and approve/disapprove of all government projects, right? Sa-weeet!

    • xantec says:

      if by “adjust” you mean “look at a gross sum of some number that may include salaries” and if by “approve/disapprove” you mean “whine about being taxed too much”, then yes, you are absolutely right.

      • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

        There are people who question how their tax dollars are spent and there are people who lube themselves up and bend over without question.

        You’re the second one.

        • exconsumer says:

          “So as taxpayers we get to adjust the salaries of all elected officials and approve/disapprove of all government projects, right? Sa-weeet!”

          As voters and taxpayers, yes, you are correct. But we’ve always had that ability, won’t be anything new.

          You elect your representative, your representative votes on your behalf for or against spending as best serves their district. Should they fail, you can vote them out and replace them with someone who does. Unless, of course, you’ve abdicated responsibility and failed to keep track of your representative, the projects they vote for, and the initiatives they get behind. . . . but I can’t imagine any American ever doing anything like that.

  7. ARP says:

    It’s a great idea, but the information will be provided at varying levels of detail, which will make meaningful oversight difficult. But at least it’s a start.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah, it’s not like a listing for GSA spending for 2010 would have a line stating “$800,000 to have a party (oops we mean conference) in Las Vegas.”

  8. DJ Charlie says:

    Good idea, but either (A) the site will constantly be down for “maintenance” or (B) everything listed will have generic names, or just meaningless file numbers.

  9. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    So they passed a law to copy a website that already exists??? Why?
    http://www.usaspending.gov/

  10. Costner says:

    Seems great until you hear the CBO says it will cost $575M to implement within the first five years.

    http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/cbo-data-act-would-cost-575m/2011-09-28

    Raise your hand if you think reporting all of the spending will result in them actually spending less? I love the idea in principle, but in practice I just don’t see it resulting in anything meaningful.

  11. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    typical election year boondoggle.

  12. Lt. Coke says:

    I’ve always thought that estimates on where your tax money is going should be included on your paystubs. I think it would really change the national debate in a good way; less “The government takes too much money!” and more “Why is so much of my paycheck going to the war machine and interest on debt?”

  13. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    They already track spending on http://www.usaspending.gov/

    I do laugh though as the politicans trying to pass this new law are the same ones that increase spending and waste a ton of money. It seems like to me they are doing this just for show especially since there is already a website for this.

  14. exconsumer says:

    Useless.

    We don’t get to vote on the budget as a whole. The only thing that we have control over at the Federal level is the election of our representative and our two senators. That’s it. How many Americans can even name their three Federal Congresspersons? Do they know how they voted on key issues? Do they know how they voted on budget issues?