Structured Data for State Government
In an article on The Bond Buyer this month Marc Joffe makes the case for municipal market data standards.
Data and technology featured frequently at the Bond Buyer National Municipal Summit, with concerns coming from data vendors and issuers. However, Joffe points out that municipal bondholders are merely one group amongst many with a stake in government data transparency. Taxpayers, public employees, and federal agencies should all be able to expect convenient, inexpensive access to local and state government data.
The current system of PDF-based disclosure is a major barrier to low-cost data access, as disclosures cannot be searched or compared and extracting the data requires considerable resources and time.
Setting standards in this area – whether mandated or voluntary – is essential for improving transparency and speeding up the process of accessing usable data. Joffe argues that the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) should be setting standards in parallel with their attempts to mine data from existing PDF disclosures.
Setting standards means building a taxonomy – and an example of a what state-level financial disclosure taxonomy could look like was published earlier this year. While corporate taxonomies contain huge numbers of different elements, significant benefits for municipal investors could be gained from a much smaller taxonomy that only tags essential information. This would also leave the data vendors room to continue adding value by extracting premium data on top of the basic, freely available data. Compliance costs are also much smaller than believed, as a uniform reporting standard would drive down expenses.
Introducing data standards for municipal markets wouldn’t just improve access to investment and transparency for taxpayers, public employees and federal government; it would also be valuable, cost-efficient and beneficial for data vendors and issuers.
Read more here.
In related news, as part of the “US Government 10K”, has also used elements of the mock CAFR taxonomy, demonstrating the potential for increased transparency and access to data if states and municipalities were also to adopt XBRL. The US Government 10K is an effort by the Steve Ballmer supported USA Facts Foundation to inject corporate levels of transparency into government spending.
Read more and take a look at the US government 10-K here.