A recent article offers some compelling suggestions for ways to improve the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act. The article states, “The DATA bill provides that items reported include name and address of recipient but no requirement that corporate persons identify the beneficial owner nor any parent-subsidiary corporate relationships. This week the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed draft ‘know your counter party’ rules for complex financial transactions known as swaps as part of its new package of rules implementing the Dodd-Frank legislation. In the same way, it is entirely doable to add simple provisions to the DATA bill that would mandate disclosure of the ownership and structure of recipients at whatever level of specificity will best enable the public to know who is really receiving the money and how they relate to other recipients.”
“Second,” it continues, “entities could be mandated to use consistent legal entity identifiers by, for example, picking their corporate entity from a selection list. This will be useful for building a more consistent, open and standard library of legal entity identifiers within the federal government. By moving toward a standard list of names in the federal spending domain, we will help agencies to amass a library of common corporate names across different regulatory regimes. Currently, one federal agency might refer to a company as ABC Inc. while another uses ABC Corp. We can help solve this problem by mandating open, universal identifiers here rather than exacerbate it by creating yet another IT system with yet another set of disparate naming conventions.”
Third, “while mandating a single way of naming a legal entity is important, it’s not sufficient to address the fact that every agency also collects different information, ie. names of facilities or securities controlled by that entity. We shouldn’t be designing and building a system for reporting spending in a vacuum and focusing only on those limited data elements. Instead, DATA and bills like it should mandate a process that leads toward a single, universal, entity identifier for naming firms with the requirement that additional data fields be open and interoperable. We want the spending data to be able to “talk” to other data collected about corporate compliance and innovation so we can “mash up” data across agency responsibilities – for example, linking patent activity with the data about federal contracting. The DATA bill describes only a limited universe of approved standards and the EO is silent on the topic. Instead, any new requirements should mandate the use of non-proprietary, interoperable data elements not subject to any license fees or restrictions on reuse.”
Image: Courtesy Flickr/ Elliot P.
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