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Lawmakers raise concern about federal spending transparency

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House Republicans are raising the alarm after dozens of federal agencies reported incomplete spending numbers, or in some cases, reported nothing at all.

The concern comes after Government Accountability Office released a report last fall showing failure to report federal spending to the publicly available database was widespread. The report found that 49 federal agencies’ financial reports were incomplete or missing altogether.

In response, the Republican leadership on the U.S. House Budget and Oversight Committees sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young as well as Bureau of the Fiscal Service Commissioner Timothy Gribben asking for information on why a third of federal agencies did not report complete spending data to the U.S. Treasury.

The letter said lawmakers are “concerned by the lack of progress in ensuring agencies provide accurate, complete, and timely reports under the law.”

Those reports are required by law to go online at USAspending.gov, the official spot where lawmakers and taxpayers can see how federal money is spent.

“GAO’s report raises important questions about the completeness and overall accuracy of the information reported to USAspending.gov,” the letter said. “Specifically, the report identified 49 agencies— nearly a third of the 152 federal agencies included in the consolidated financial statements (CFS) report—that did not report spending data to the Department of Treasury. Additionally, GAO found that ‘about half (25 of 49) of [the agencies that did not submit reports] were in the executive branch’ accounting for ‘more than $5 billion.’”

The OMB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“USAspending.gov is vital to Congress’s Constitutional oversight duty to ensure the financial transparency of the Executive Branch’s spending of taxpayer funds,” the letter said.

The GAO said Congress needs to provide more clarity on the issue.

“Although many nonreporting agencies may not be required to report, neither the Department of the Treasury nor the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have clear responsibility for determining which agencies are required to report,” the letter said. “Until Congress assigns responsibility to Treasury and OMB to periodically assess and determine which agencies must report data to USAspending.gov and oversee the completeness of their reporting, the USAspending.gov data may lack some required spending information.”

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