The Department of the Treasury’s financial open data site, USAspending.gov, meets some key open data best practices, but still falls short of some legislative and administrative requirements, according to a Dec. 13 Government Accountability Office report.
“USAspending.gov aligns with several key practices. However, the Department of the Treasury has not fully aligned the website with all of the key practices, the requirements of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, and Office of Management and Budget guidance,” the GAO report said.
GAO first identified five key practices for data transparency as outlined by FFATA and OMB:
- Provide free and unrestricted data
- Engage with users
- Provide data in useful formats
- Fully describe the data
- Facilitate data discovery for all users
USAspending.gov fully fulfilled practices for providing free access to data and engaging with users, partially fulfilled practices for providing data in useful formats and facilitating data discovery and did not meet the best practice for fully describing data, according to GAO.
Though the report noted that USAspending.gov provided machine-readable data, it also found that the site lacked proper security practices for that data.
“Treasury lacks a process to ensure that any new pages added to the website are hosted on a .gov domain and encrypted with the secure HTTPS protocol required by OMB. Without such a process Treasury does not have assurance that new pages added to the website meet federal security requirements,” the report said.
In addition, USAspending.gov failed to provide a function that allows users to search for data by city or program source, as required by FFATA.
The site also failed the best practice for describing data because of its lack of structured metadata.
“USAspending.gov does not fully reflect this key practice because while it discloses data sources and timeliness, the website does not provide structured metadata,” the report said. “Providing metadata—structured descriptive information about the data—is also an OMB requirement. In addition, while OMB guidance provides that agencies must apply open licenses, the website does not provide comprehensive licensing information for the data. As a result, users may not have the information they need on how the data can be used.”
The report issued five recommendations for improving the areas where USAspending.gov failed to meet requirements. The Department of the Treasury agreed with the recommendations.
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.