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Treasury Notes

 An Update on Open Government at Treasury

By: Dan Tangherlini
9/20/2011

On the first day of his presidency, President Barack Obama made transparency a priority, committing his Administration to an “unprecedented level of openness in Government.” Since January of 2009, the Administration has worked to improve Freedom of Information Act processes to get information to the public more quickly, made voluminous information available on government websites, and used technology in innovative ways that harness government information to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

Today, in conjunction with the the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York City, President Obama will sign the Open Government Partnership declaration, which is a new, multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

Since President Obama launched the Open Government Initiative over two years ago, the Treasury Department has been working to answer his call to create a more efficient and effective government through greater transparency, participation, and collaboration. A number of these actions not only contribute to our Open Government goals but also have the added benefit of supporting our “Paperless Treasury” initiative, which has helped our agency both save taxpayer dollars and cut down on environmental waste. In 2011 alone, the Treasury Department has taken a number of steps to increase its openness, transparency and interaction with the public:

And our bureaus are making strides as well.

  • The Financial Management Service announced that beginning May 1, anyone newly applying for Social Security, Veterans Affairs or other federal benefits will need to choose an electronic payment method, including direct deposit or a pre-paid debit card. People currently receiving federal benefits by paper check must switch to an electronic payment method by March 1, 2013. This will save the taxpayers $1 billion over the next 10 years. In addition to the taxpayer savings, electronic payments are safer and more convenient than paper checks for benefit recipients.
  • Supporting its Regulatory Efficiency and Effectiveness Initiative , FinCEN's Bank Secrecy Act E-Filing System (BSA E-Filing) now includes two additional forms that can be E-Filed, improving data quality, saving taxpayer money and improving customer service. And FinCEN recently proposed that nearly all FinCEN reports be electronically filed as from June 30, 2012.
  • The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has published eight audit reports that make recommendations for better government collaboration and sharing of data to help combat waste, fraud and abuse in the Federal system of tax administration, and enhance compliance with the tax laws.
  • The Bureau of the Public Debt’s (BPD) ended the issuance of paper savings bonds issued through employer-sponsored payroll savings plans on September 30th for federal employees and December 31st for all others. Additionally, BPD announced that as of 2012, paper savings bonds will no longer be sold at financial institutions and will conduct additional outreach to make investors aware of TreasuryDirect for purchasing electronic Treasury securities.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) have recently released two mobile phone applications, leveraging technology to providing you the information you need—whenever you need it, wherever you are. The BEP's EyeNote allows the blind or visually impaired to scan paper currency to discover the bank note's value. With the IRS’ IRS2Go application, users can check on their refund status, receive tax tips and updates, and connect with the IRS Twitter news feed.

These are some of the highlights of Treasury’s Open Government work over the past year. We also know we are not done.  As the the United States commits itself to Open Government in an international forum, the Department of the Treasury is recommitting itself to the principles that the President announced on his first day in office and exemplified in our work since then: transparency, participation and collaboration. For more about Treasury’s open government initiative, please visit www.treasury.gov/open.

Dan Tangherlini is Assistant Secretary for Management, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Performance Officer at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.​

Posted in:  Open Government
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