Publicly Released: November 10, 2021
The objective of this audit was to determine whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) complied with Public Law 113-101, “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014” (DATA Act). We assessed the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, and overall quality of USACE’s fourth quarter FY 2020 financial and award data submitted for publication on USAspending.gov. We also assessed USACE’s implementation and use of the Government‑wide financial data standards (data elements) established by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury (the Treasury).
On May 9, 2014, the President signed the DATA Act into law, expanding requirements of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA). The FFATA required OMB to establish a single searchable public website (USAspending.gov) to disclose information on Federal contract and grant awards to enable members of the public to track how their tax dollars are spent. The DATA Act expands the FFATA by requiring Federal agencies to submit their spending data quarterly, and to link that data to contract and grant award data to enable taxpayers and policy makers to track Federal spending more effectively. OMB and the Treasury developed financial data standards that define the data elements that agencies must report under the DATA Act. Data elements categorize Federal spending information displayed on USAspending.gov.
Federal agencies submit their financial and award data to the Treasury’s DATA Act Broker application, which compiles agency data for publication on USAspending.gov. Agencies are required to use the DATA Act Broker to upload three files containing data from their internal financial systems and records.
- File A – Appropriations Account. File A contains the fiscal year cumulative appropriations account summary data.
- File B – Object Class and Program Activity. File B contains the appropriation account data listed in File A further defined by object class code and program activity name.
- File C – Award Financial or Financial Data for Procurement and Grant Awards. File C contains transaction-level financial data for all procurements and grants processed during the quarter.
The DATA Act Broker extracts spending data from Government-wide award reporting systems that contain data on Federal contracts, grants, and award recipients.
- File D1 – Procurement. File D1 contains procurement award and awardee data extracted from the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation.
- File D2 – Grants. File D2 contains grant award and awardee data extracted from the Financial Assistance Broker Submission system on grant and other financial assistance awards.
- File E – Additional Awardee Data. File E contains information extracted from the System for Award Management on the award recipients.
- File F – Sub-award Data. File F contains information extracted from the FFATA Sub-award Reporting System on awards made to sub-recipients under a prime contract or grant award.
Federal agencies are required to designate a Senior Accountable Official (SAO), who is responsible for providing reasonable assurance that the agency’s internal controls support the reliability and validity of the data reported for publication on USAspending.gov. The Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/ Chief Financial Officer, DoD, designated the Deputy Chief Financial Officer as the USACE SAO.
USACE did not comply with all DATA Act requirements for its fourth quarter FY 2020 submission. Although USACE used the Government-wide data standards, the SAO certified the USACE DATA Act submission timely, and the File A and B data matched the data submitted in the SF 133; the data elements included in Files C and D1 were not accurate, complete, or timely. Specifically, the projected error rates for Files C and D1 were 9.6 percent for accuracy, 2.2 percent for completeness, and 4.3 percent for timeliness. The errors were primarily attributable to File D1 and occurred because data was inaccurately or incompletely entered into the Federal Procurement Data System– Next Generation. In addition, USACE did not report any of the 105 coronavirus disease–2019 outlays that should have been reported in its fourth quarter FY 2020 File C submission. The transactions were not reported because of a coding error in the File C upload process.
Based on the calculation required by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency Federal Audit Executive Council’s Inspectors General Guide to Compliance under the DATA Act, the overall quality of the USACE data was in the “Higher” range. Although the quality of the financial and award data has improved when compared to USACE’s DATA Act submission for the first quarter of FY 2019, USACE’s DATA Act submission on USAspending.gov cannot be fully relied upon. Further reductions in the number of errors in USACE’s DATA Act submission will continue to improve the overall data quality. The better USACE’s data quality, the more effectively taxpayers and policy makers can track Federal spending and the closer USACE is to meeting the DATA Act objective of providing transparent Federal spending data for publication on USAspending.gov.
We recommend that the USACE Chief of Engineers and Commanding General provide documentation to support that the coding error that removed coronavirus disease–2019 outlays from File C was corrected for the fourth quarter of FY 2020 and subsequent submissions; and revise and implement the USACE data quality plan to be consistent with Federal guidance, by including a process for ensuring that disaster and emergency relief funds are complete and accurate before making monthly and quarterly DATA Act submissions.
Management Comments and Our Response
The USACE Director of Resource Management, responding for the USACE Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, agreed with the recommendations. We will close the recommendations once we verify that the agreed-upon actions are complete.
This report is the result of Proj. No. D2021-D000CS-0040.000.