Agencies test DATA Act compliance with broker and sandbox
- By Amanda Ziadeh
- Apr 20, 2016
When the DATA Act was signed into law nearly two years ago, it required agencies to publically report financial spending data in a standardized and machine-readable format. The Treasury Department was responsible for defining the standard format for agencies to use when reporting financial data; developing a broker tool that uploads flat files from agencies, validates the data and converts it to a uniform DATA Act format; and revamping the USASpending.gov website where the data will be presented.
“When we approached the design of these efforts we did it with an agile user centric approach,” the Treasury’s Fiscal Assistant Secretary David Lebryk said an April 19 hearing of two subcommittees of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Lebryk explained this approach would allow the department to deploy quick releases so if something went wrong it could quickly consult users and make adjustments. For the DATA Act schema, he said this concept proved “critical.”
The schema is based on 57 data elements that agencies must report. By using a mapping and extracting process, Treasury identified the appropriate data federal spending data within the agencies, tagged it and extracted it for presentation, according to Lebryk. This process also identified the files that need to be submitted to the DATA Act broker.
The open source broker takes agency submitted files, pulls from existing data sources when needed, validates the data and uploads it to the Data Act operating infrastructure, according to Lebryk’s testimony.
After creating the prototype broker tool last year, Treasury allowed agencies to bring their financial spending data to its sandbox and use the broker to ensure the data was properly formatted and accurately represented the data elements.
So far, 18 of the 24 agencies subject to the DATA Act have come to the sandbox to test their data. Some of the first agencies faced challenges over the quality of the data and the relationships among file formats.
Treasury is expecting to have a beta version of the broker available by this summer and a production version in the early fall. Though initial plans had the schema being finalized last December, Lebryk said the department now anticipates releasing the final version in May. Once the schema is implemented, the broker will accept and validate those files for presentation on the new USAspending.gov.
Lebryk said he believes the agile approach moved agencies further along in meeting DATA Act mandates than they would have been otherwise. “This gives us better confidence…that agencies have done the kind of things that they need to do to get ready,” he said.
Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.