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ARRA Treasury Account Symbols: the outcome of our FOIA request

In July, I wrote about why I've been looking for Recovery TAFS and appropriations. In an attempt to get an official list from the US federal government, Eric Kansa and I sent a FOIA letter to OMB to request the release (in electronic form) of a complete and up-to-date list of all Recovery Act (ARRA) TAFS (Treasury Appropriation Fund Symbols). We had known of two out-of-date and potentially incomplete lists of the ARRA TAFS:

  1. the worksheet entitled "92_AARP_TAFS_DD_Detail" in May 8, 2009 weekly report from USAID
  2. a pdf published by ProPublica on April 1, 2009.

We specifically asked for an up-to-date Excel spreadsheet with the same columns as the worksheet "92_AARP_TAFS_DD_Detail" — but with an explanation of what each of the columns meant.  We  also encouraged the OMB to make this data available on an ongoing basis as an XML document published on the OMB website and kept up to date, with an explanation of each field.

Last week, we got what we asked for:  an Excel spreadsheet ( see Internet Archive metadata), which I've also uploaded as a Google spreadsheet.  Note the description of the spreadsheet to be found in the first sheet:

In a letter dated August 24 to OMB's Freedom of Information Officer, you requested that OMB provide you with an up-to-date Excel spreadsheet with the same columns as a worksheet you emailed on October 16. The Berk_FOIA_Data tab in this Excel file provides up-to-date information using the same columns in the file you sent. The information is up-to-date as of October 19, 2009, and shows a list of each Treasury Appropriation Fund Symbol (TAFS) associated with the Recovery Act (RA). Below is a description of each column in the Berk_FOIA_Data tab.

I've not had an opportunity to complete my analysis of the FOIA spreadsheet  and to correlate the data to the recipient reporting.   You'll note that there are 342 TAFS in the spreadsheet.  To derive a list of Treasury Account Symbols (TAS as opposed to TAFS), we concatenate the  Treasury Agency Code with the Treasury Bureau Code (separated by a '-') and bundle all  the corresponding TAFS.   See the resulting list, with a total of 313 TAS.  You'll note that a spreadsheet that lists the TAS as of Sept 13, 2009 has 309 symbols, while the HTML list on currently lists 327 TAS (along with 32 place-holder symbols).   The differences in those lists is something to nail down next.  At any rate, even something like the list of Treasury Accounts associated with the Recovery Act is more fluid than what I would have expected at this point.

One thing that has puzzled me is why there are so many TAFS with $0.00 for the treasury warrant.  You find an explanation in the FOIA spreadsheet:

Treasury Warrant is the sum that Treasury warranted to the TAFS. You can think of a warrant as being the initial deposit in a new checking account. For many of the TAFSs on the list, you can track the amounts appropriated in the law to the amount of the Treasury warrant. In some cases, however, you cannot track back to actual amounts because the funding in the law is formula based. In many cases, a TAFS has a zero in the Treasury Warrant column. The primary reason for this is that these TAFSs receive RA funds via a transfer from other TAFSs.

Hmmm.  We're going to have to understand the relevant formulas.

Acknowledgement:  A big thanks to Brian Carver for providing us valuable advice on how to formulate, draft and send a FOIA request and helping us to interpret what's happening during a FOIA process.

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