Despite directives of recent years from OMB and elsewhere, federal agencies still are falling short in sharing data that could be valuable to each other and to the public, says a Senate report on S-760, which has been cleared for floor consideration.
"Additionally, some of the data assets that have been posted publicly are not useful because they are posted in a proprietary format. The need is to both expose the data assets that have not been available and liberate the data assets that have been locked behind licensing and proprietary formats," says the report, which explains the basis for the legislation.
It cited a GAO report concluding that "a lack of government-wide data standards limits the ability to measure the cost and magnitude of federal investments and hampers efforts to share data across agencies to improve decision-making and oversight."
For example, it said, GAO found that both the EPA and FDA were inspecting the same laboratories for the same purpose. "Because the agencies did not share data, they may have been unaware that they were performing the same oversight function on the same facility," it said.
The bill would require that data assets be maintained in an open format--machine readable and not in a proprietary format or subject to licensing. It further would require agencies to maintain an inventory of data assets they create, own, or manage, and that the data be publicly available. It also would strengthen the role of CIOs in overseeing open data and information resources management policy.
A tenth of former employees rehired by the IRS had disciplinary issues during their previous employment and the agency "has not effectively updated or implemented hiring policies to fully consider past IRS conduct and performance issues," an IG report has said.
A report said that over a 15-month period starting in January 2015 the IRS hired nearly 7,500 employees, of whom more than 2,000 previously had worked there. About 200 of those had been terminated or separated during an investigation of a substantiated conduct or performance issue, it added.
Four had been terminated or resigned for willful failure to properly file their federal tax returns; four separated while under investigation for unauthorized accesses to taxpayer information; and 86 separated while under investigation for absences and leave, workplace disruption, or failure to follow instructions, it said.
"Although the IRS follows specific criteria to disqualify applicants for employment, past IRS employment history is not provided to the selecting official for consideration when making a tentative hiring decision. IRS officials stated that it would be cost prohibitive to review prior issues before a hiring decision and tentative offer has been made. However, the IRS was unable to provide documented support for this position, it said.
It said IRS management agreed in principle with the recommendations and plans to update current practices and policies to ensure that data reflecting prior performance and misconduct is considered in the hiring process.
FEMA has misconduct policies and procedures for its Title 5 and on-call response/recovery employees but not for it surge capacity force members or reservists, GAO has said.
Without such guidance FEMA cannot ensure that misconduct "is addressed adequately in a timely and comprehensive manner," and supervisors "may not be aware of all aspects of the disciplinary and appeals process," GAO told a House hearing.
Even for Title 5 employees, FEMA "does not communicate the range of offenses and penalties" because a recent revision to its disciplinary manual eliminated the table of penalties, which many agencies use to provide guidance to those taking disciplinary action against an employee for a given violation. Instead, the agency communicates that information on an individual basis as needed, GAO said.
"Because information about offenses and penalties is not universally shared with supervisors and employees, FEMA management is limited in its ability to set expectations about appropriate conduct in the workplace and to communicate consequences of inappropriate conduct," it said. Further, the records FEMA keeps on discipline are incomplete and of only limited usefulness in identifying and addressing trends in misconduct, GAO said.
A FEMA witness said that the agency is working to comply with GAO's recommendations, including plans to soon reissue a table of penalties.