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Are Federal Data Dashboards Inaccurate?

The Dashboard Spy welcomed with much fanfare the Federal IT Dashboard and the USASpending.gov sites.

Now, in a stunning development, the accuracy of the data on these federal dashboards is in question. Accusations are being made that the information is faulty.

As all of us business intelligence dashboard project implementors know, the question of data quality fundamentally calls the entire dashboard project into question.

Take a look at this headline from Information Week Government:

federal data dashboard inaccurate

This from the article: Watchdogs Criticize Federal Data Dashboard Accuracy

Read this carefully – it’s enough to give a dashboard project owner a total heart attack. The data on the dashboard is being called “almost entirely useless”.

The Obama administration has backed up its plan to boost transparency by releasing heaps of federal data via its open-data push. But both federal and independent watchdog agencies are criticizing the administration for inaccuracies they’ve found in at least two of the federal government’s online data repositories.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found numerous errors on the Federal IT Dashboard concerning data about federal IT investments that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) uses to track investment changes and identify performance issues, it said in a report (PDF) released online Tuesday.
Separately, The Sunlight Foundation, an open government advocacy group, performed an analysis that found nearly $1.3 trillion of federal spending as reported on the USASpending.gov Web site is inaccurate. Sunlight Foundation co-founder and Executive Director Ellen Miller testified before Congress last week about the findings of the organization’s Clearspending analysis of the site.

The GAO report took a look at ratings of selected IT investments on the IT dashboard to see if they accurately reflected the performance of the project they represented. Specifically, the agency found inaccurate cost ratings for six of the investments and inaccurate schedule ratings for nine.

For example, the dashboard rating for a Department of Homeland Security investment reported significant changes in the cost of the project for 3 months in 2010. GAO analysis of the project, however, showed less variance in cost during the same time period, according to the report.

The agency cited “weaknesses in how agencies report the data to the dashboard, such as providing erroneous data submissions, as well as limitations in how OMB calculates the ratings” for the misinformation presented on the dashboard.

“Until the selected agencies and OMB resolve these issues, ratings will continue to often be inaccurate and may not reflect current program performance,” the GAO said.
The Sunlight Foundation’s analysis focused on another key open-data site, the Federal IT Dashboard, which posts financial and other data about current federal IT projects.

Miller’s appearance last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Technology and Information Policy is not the first time she has been critical of USASpending.gov. At the Gov 2.0 Summit last September, she called data on the site “almost entirely useless” because of flaws.

This is stunning, isn’t it?

Here’s the GAO report link: Information Technology: OMB Has Made Improvements to Its Dashboard, but Further Work is Needed by Agencies and OMB to Ensure Data Accuracy

federal dashboard data accuracy

Hubert Lee
The Dashboard Spy

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