Commercial Data Providers Could Help Federal Agencies, GAO Says

Commercial data services can help the efficiency of program integrity activities for certain government agencies.

The Government Accountability Office stated in a June 30 report that agencies can focus their efforts on other tasks if they allow commercial data service providers to offer Web and phone-based services to authenticate taxpayers’ identities.

The Internal Revenue Service told GAO that commercial data services have reduced the number of in-person requests for identity verification the agency received. The benefits of these commercial services extend beyond the realm of identity verification.

Data service providers can supply Federal agencies with access to private sector data, such as information on bank deposits, wages, real estate, and driver’s licenses. The financial information can help agencies identify whether someone is eligible for disabilities based on the assets he or she may have.

“Federal agencies may consider various factors in determining whether data from commercial data services meet their information requirements for conducting program integrity activities,” said the GAO in its report.

Such factors include the accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of the data. Agencies can exercise their own discretion when deciding to use commercial data services. The Department of Labor told GAO that state unemployment insurance (UI) agencies could improve the detection of improper payments by obtaining wage data from a commercial data service provider.

Data from data service providers is “generally more recent than quarterly wage data that UI agencies receive directly from employers,” the report stated.

In the report, DOL also stated that it is working on a four-month pilot program with three states and a provider. The program will examine the provider’s payroll data in order to identify improper payments to UI recipients with disqualifying income from work.

Eleanor Lamb
About Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.
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