Federal grant data riddled with inconsistencies, report says

The Sunlight Foundation found tons of unreliable federal grant data when they compared USASpending.gov figures with other reporting databases.

The vast majority of federal grant spending is either overreported, underreported or not reported publicly at all, according to a new report from the Sunlight Foundation.

The non-profit group released its most recent Clearspending report on Sept. 21, showing that $1.3 trillion in federal grants and loans were misreported on USASpending.gov in fiscal 2010. That covers 94.5 percent of the total amount of grants.

That pattern also was observed in fiscal 2008, in which 96.5 percent of the total was determined to be misreported on USASpending.gov, the Sept. 21 report said.

“We have seen no significant improvement in the quality of this data,” Sunlight officials wrote in the report. “As long as such a large portion of its data remains unreliable, USASpending.gov is not usable as a single source for any kind of analysis, whether by a citizen, media outlet or research institution.”

The foundation analyzed federal grant spending data as reported to USASpending.gov to determine whether it was consistent with data submitted to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.

If spending was reported to USASpending.gov and not to the catalog, that amount was deemed to be overreported. If spending was reported to the catalog but not to USASPending.gov, it was judged underreported.

The agencies with the greatest overreporting were the Education Department, with 30 percent, and Homeland Security Department, with more than three thousand percent overreported, the study said.

Those with the largest percentages of underreporting were the Labor Department, 95 percent; National Archives & Records Administration, 80 percent; USDA, 60 percent; Environmental Protection Agency, 46 percnet; Transportation Department, 35 percent; and Health and Human Services Department, 35 percent.