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Tribal Governments Should Prepare for the Data Act Now

August 4, 2015

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) was signed into law on May 9, 2014 and requires the Department of Treasury to standardize financial data and expand the amount of data reported to federal agencies by 2018. The goal of the DATA Act is to make federal expenditures easier to access and simpler to understand.
 
Tribal Government Implications and Preparation
The DATA Act will require tribal governments and other local governments to adopt the technology and processes necessary to report quarterly on how federal funds are spent. Here are some tips tribal governments can ready themselves for to prepare:

Start implementing the standard data definitions:
Treasury has posted a list of standard data definitions and terms for exchanging data, known as the "DATA Act Schema". Does your tribe have unique identifiers for federal awards, organizations, grantees, and contractors? Are your unique identifiers consistent with federal data standards?

Prepare for machine-readable data submission: 
The DATA Act makes machine-readable formats the standard for data reporting in order to eliminate data entry redundancies. The data submission will likely be in the form of online web forms, such as XML. This requirement may take the most time to implement and require software upgrades. Can you access your tribe's federal contract and grant data efficiently? Do you have the appropriate security and technology to pull the information and submit using an XML file transfer?

Streamline grant management processes:
The DATA Act will not change the information your tribe currently reports; however, the data will be gathered differently. That said, the spending data overall, may draw attention to mismanaged funds, upping the competition for already sought-after federal dollars. Does your tribe have the necessary accounting processes in place to ensure required data is accumulated, processed, and reported on time and accurately? Do you have staff to analyze budgeting and spending information and map your data in accordance to the required standards?

While the DATA Act calls for three years of pilots, tribal governments sitting on the sidelines will only magnify challenges and increase the risk of reporting unreliable data. Active planning focused on finding the best processes for submitting federal spending and charting the course will benefit everyone.

For questions or comments please contact Jennifer Parisien at Jennifer@nafoa.org or (202) 558-8040.
 
In-Person Training

An overview session on What tribes need to know about the DATA Act will be featured at the 2015 Fall Finance & Tribal Economies Conference September 14-15, 2015 in Boston.

DATA Act Timeline
May 2014: President Obama signs the DATA Act into law.
 
May 2015: Treasury and OMB must establish data standards for federal spending reports.
 
May 2017: Federal agencies must begin reporting their spending information using the data standards. OMB must finish a pilot program testing the standards for recipient reporting.
 
May 2018: Treasury and OMB must begin publishing all standardized spending data on USASpending.gov. 
 
August 2018: All tribal governments and other federal grantee and contractors must begin reporting information using the data standards.
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