Earlier this year, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (the Board), along with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), convened a data forum to explore how data analytics can assist in the prevention and detection of fraud waste and abuse (Data Sharing: An Antidote to Taxpayer Ripoffs). Representatives from federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as the private sector participated in open discussions to identify the most-significant challenges to realizing the potential of data analytics and actions that the government can take to address these challenges.
The formal report was just released outlining the challenges and opportunities for accessing, using, and sharing available government data to assist the oversight community in detecting and preventing fraud.
Among the challenges cited by the participants included that the lack of uniform data standards making it difficult for entities to share data across the federal government, as well as with state and local government agencies. The participants also discussed legal implications to owning and maintaining data, and statutory requirements such as the computer matching provisions for the Privacy Act, that affect how agencies use data from multiple government databases.
Currently the Board is collecting data on Hurricane Sandy relief spending and has encountered the specific challenge pointed to by the forum: limited coordination between federal, state, and local oversight entities, which may lead to missed opportunities and redundancy in auditing activities.
Forum participants did note, however, that there are opportunities to enhance data access and sharing:
- Datasets and data analytics operations can be consolidated at one location under the auspices of one group to eliminate duplication of efforts.
- The use of open-source analytical tools and techniques can decrease costs, and at the same time, allow for adjustments to meet the needs of the individual agencies.
Forum participants suggested follow-up activities could include developing a directory of all data sources and open source analytics library.
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