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NASA OIG: Review of NASA's Fiscal Year 2019 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act Submission

Status Report From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019

Full document

WHY WE PERFORMED THIS AUDIT

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) expands and improves oversight of federal spending, which in fiscal year (FY) 2018 totaled over $4 trillion. To increase transparency, the DATA Act requires the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to establish government‐wide data standards in pursuit of consistent, reliable, searchable data for any federal funds made available to, or expended by, federal agencies. Agencies are responsible for submitting complete and accurate financial and award data to USAspending.gov, a public website that tracks federal spending. To increase accountability, the DATA Act also requires that Inspectors General issue three reports (one every two years) on the completeness, accuracy, timeliness, and quality of agency data, and on each agency’s implementation and use of the government‐wide data standards.

In November 2017, we issued our first report, finding that NASA’s FY 2017, second quarter submission was complete, timely, and properly used the DATA Act standards; however, we identified minor errors with the accuracy and quality of the data. In this second audit, we assessed (1) the completeness, accuracy, timeliness, and overall quality of NASA’s FY 2019, first quarter financial and award data totaling over $4.2 billion and submitted to Treasury for publication on USAspending.gov; and (2) NASA’s implementation and use of the data standards. We reviewed applicable laws and regulations; interviewed NASA personnel; and performed audit steps, sampling, and analysis according to guidance provided by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).

WHAT WE FOUND

Overall, we found that NASA’s DATA Act submission was complete and timely. We also found that the Agency implemented and properly used the government‐wide financial data standards.

In our detailed, record‐level testing of a statistically valid sample of 385 transactions, we found that NASA’s data met the CIGIE standard of “higher quality.” This standard establishes that data should be considered “higher quality” if the highest overall error rate for three categories—timeliness, accuracy, and completeness—is 20 percent or below. Despite this positive rating, we identified errors that affected the timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of NASA’s financial and award data. Specifically, procurement information was not entered into source data systems in accordance with the timeline established by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Additionally, we identified inaccuracies attributable to manual input errors. Finally, we identified errors in the completeness and accuracy of the data due to contracting officials not verifying procurement information in the Federal Procurement Data System‐Next Generation (FPDS‐NG). These errors increased the risk that untimely, inaccurate, and incomplete data would be uploaded to USAspending.gov, decreasing the reliability and usefulness of the data published on the public website.

WHAT WE RECOMMENDED

To improve the timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of NASA’s DATA Act submissions, we recommended that the Assistant Administrator for Procurement (1) reinforce to contracting officers their responsibility to follow the FAR requirement to report procurement award data elements in FPDS‐NG within three business days after contract award; (2) incorporate a procedure into the existing Verification and Validation process to verify that procurement data is entered into FPDS‐NG within three business days after contract award; (3) correct the incomplete and inaccurate award data identified in this audit; and (4) instruct contracting officers how to complete data fields in FPDS‐NG that require manual input, such as the Current Total Value of Award and Potential Total Value of Award fields, and instruct contracting officers to verify that the data in FPDS‐NG is consistent with the latest information in the System for Award Management when executing an award action. We also recommended (5) that the Chief Financial Officer, working with the Senior Accountable Official, incorporate the results of this audit—as detailed in this report and specifically identified according to data elements in Appendixes B and C—when executing the Agency’s Data Quality Plan and determining high risk control areas in FY 2020. In response to a draft of this report, NASA management concurred with our recommendations and described corrective actions they plan to take. We consider management’s comments responsive; therefore, the recommendations are resolved and will be closed upon completion and verification of the proposed corrective actions.

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