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‘Hero’ of federal management, DATA Act implementation leaving Treasury

The Treasury Department executive who forged the path for tracking more than $3 trillion in federal spending is starting down a new road in the private sector.

Christina Ho, deputy assistant secretary for Treasury’s Office of Accounting Policy and Financial Transparency, is stepping down from her government role. Her last day is Friday.

“I am grateful for the many opportunities to drive lasting changes to make our government better in the past eight years, especially the opportunity to lead the implementation of the DATA Act,” Ho said in an email to Federal News Radio. “It is the most important thing I have ever done in my 24-year career. It was rewarding to see our great vision become a reality, to deliver on the great promise of a major government reform, and to lead a team of talented professionals dedicated to solving problems and achieving results every day. I will miss them tremendously.”

Amy Edwards, senior adviser for financial transparency, is filling Ho’s role until a permanent replacement is named.

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Ho spent her 8 years in public service with the Treasury Department. She represented Treasury on the Federal Standards Advisory Board (FASAB), and worked in the department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service. She was also a senior manager at Deloitte & Touche, LLP.

Her office, according to a short biography, is responsible “for leading the development, implementation, and enforcement of accounting policies governing federal financial activities and promoting innovation in federal financial management.”

This innovative financial management includes the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act. The DATA Act was signed into law three years ago, and since that time, Ho and her team at Treasury ,and the Office of Management and Budget have worked to help agencies standardize their spending information.

David Mader, former OMB controller and now chief strategy officer for Deloitte’s civilian sector, told Federal News Radio he credited the successful implementation of the DATA Act to Ho’s contributions, and expressed gratitude that he got the opportunity to work with Ho as their two teams spearheaded the rollout.

“In the very first meeting with Treasury we realized that due to funding constraints and time we would not be able to approach this in a traditional ‘waterfall’ approach, but rather we needed to adopt an agile approach,” Mader said. “There was also the complexity of bringing together data from the 24 CFO Act agencies, and not just financial data but also contract, loan, and grant data, into a unified dataset that would populate the new USASpending website. Christina Ho and her Treasury team went to work on the problem and brought back to [Treasury’s Fiscal Assistant Secretary] Dave Lebyrk and me the concept of the Data Broker and the use of the agile technique with constant industry and stakeholder input during this multi-year iterative process. It was a high risk approach and thanks to the entire team of OMB, Treasury and the 24 agencies, we achieved success  this past May.  “

Hudson Hollister, interim president of the Data Foundation, shared similar sentiments, calling Ho a “hero of federal management.”

“Without Christina’s integrity, grit and creativity, the DATA Act would not have been implemented successfully, and we would not have the governmentwide open data set of federal spending that today exists,” Hollister said. ”

Hollister said Ho’s integrity allowed her to put the public interest ahead of her own, which “is why she achieved her goal of data transparency for spending.”

“Christina is always willing to dig into the difficult details of policy and data, while never losing sight of the big picture,” Hollister said. “Christina’s willingness to tackle the hardest concepts in complex accounting and technology, combined with her broad perspective on the entire structure of the world’s largest organization, led to a solution that made revolutionary data transparency possible.”

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