Reporting Model Phase II

FASAB Contact: Ross Simms, simmsr@fasab.gov, 202-512-2512

Project Objective:

Considering users’ needs for integrated budget, cost, and performance information, the project involves developing illustrative reporting models, conducting performance reporting research, and continuing discrete projects as determined.

HISTORY OF BOARD DELIBERATIONS

August 29-30, 2018

Phase II of the reporting model project was not discussed during the August 2018 meeting.

June 27-28, 2018

While the Board did not discuss phase II at the June 2018 meeting, research on an electronic reporting model is ongoing and staff is conducting interviews with potential users. In one interview, the respondent indicated that the public is becoming accustomed to rapid data access and “seconds matter.” Hunting through a presentation in portable document format seems to take a lifetime relative to using computer technology and accessing machine-readable data. Analysts prefer to scan a website electronically and may assume the information is not available if it is not located within seconds. This respondent’s views highlighted the opportunities that exist for improving financial data access in the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

April 25-26, 2018

The Board reviewed a presentation that demonstrated the benefits of electronic reporting versus paper-based reporting. Currently, the project is in the design stage; the Board reviewed website wireframes or blueprints. The wireframes included a list of questions that users may wish to have answered. The user would click on the question and immediately go to information that answers the question. The presentation also included mouse overs to explain technical matters, data visualizations, and financial statements that allow the user to click on a line item and drill down to additional information.

The presentation also included ideas for additional tools to engage users such as a landing page designed to guide users with different levels of expertise, a search feature, and/or a chatbot that could assist users in answering questions, including those that may not be tied to traditional financial statements. A chatbot uses artificial intelligence to conduct a conversation with the user.

Staff plans to reach out to users and learn more about their needs and the possibilities for electronic reporting.

Issue Paper for April 25-26, 2018 – Tab D (PDF)

February 21-22, 2018

In considering a reporting model for the future, the Board observed a demonstration of interactive data visualizations, management’s discussion and analyses (MD&As), and financial statements. The interactive presentations considered the needs of users and were designed to help users understand financial information.

Mr. Justin Marsico, Senior Policy Analyst, Department of the Treasury (Treasury), presented a series of data visualizations. Treasury developed the visualizations to help users understand and explore data collected as part of the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2014. Mr. Marsico’s presentation included a sankey diagram and a dendrogram. The sankey diagram linked budget functions to object classes and illustrated the magnitude of the relationships. The dendrogram listed each federal agency and allowed users to drill down from the agency level to the sub-agency level and to the federal accounts that comprise sub-agency spending. Users could also view a federal account profile to gain a better understanding of how agencies receive and spend congressional funding to carry out their programs, projects, and activities.

The Board also observed an interactive MD&A and interactive financial statements developed by a team from Deloitte & Touche LLP. The interactive MD&A included tips to help users understand technical terms, a sankey diagram of budgetary resources, a radar chart comparing the net cost for five programs over multiple periods, and a geospatial heat map of net cost by state with drill-down capability enabling users to view amounts by congressional district. The interactive financial statements also provided drill-down capability. The drill-down feature enabled users to learn more about the details of financial statement line item balances.

The Board encouraged continued progress in electronic reporting. The Deloitte team included Mr. Justin Reed, Partner; Ms. Tasha Austin, Senior Manager; Mr. Daniel Shorstein, Manager; Ms. Tanya Bagheri, Business Technology Analyst; Ms. Reem El Seed, Consultant; and Mr. Dai Tran, Specialist Master.

The Board subsequently discussed whether to revisit certain topics within Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Concepts (SFFAC) 3, Management’s Discussion and Analysis. The possible topics included revisiting (1) SFFAC 3 for standards or implementation guidance; (2) the role of MD&A; (3) the scope of MD&A; (4) the schematic diagram of a sample general purpose federal financial report (GPFFR); (5) the intended audience for MD&A and GPFFRs; (6) the financial statements discussion; (7) the systems, control, and legal compliance discussion; and/or (8) the performance discussion. Board members discussed the topics for revisiting SFFAC 3 and noted that they were integrated rather than stand-alone topics. Consequently, the Board agreed that implementation guidance should be developed to help improve the content of MD&As. The Board noted that component reporting entities could be more creative and use interactive technology. Existing standards do not preclude reporting entities from using the technology.