Regulatory Management:

Communication About Technology-Based Innovations Can Be Improved

GAO-01-232: Published: Feb 12, 2001. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 2001.

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Federal and state agencies are making extensive use of information technology (IT) to address traditional regulatory management. For example, the Department of Labor has a system of electronic "advisors" imitating the interaction that an individual might have with an employment law expert, and the Environmental Protection Agency is working with partners in state government to develop a national environmental information exchange network. Several of the state innovations include interactive systems that allow regulated entities to identify their regulatory responsibilities and complete related transactions. For example, the Texas Railroad Commission has an electronic process that allows users to obtain oil or gas well permits on-line, complete the required forms, and pay any associated fees. Representatives from nongovernmental organizations suggest that federal agencies improve both the content and access to on-line information, more broadly and consistently use some existing applications, and adopt some new applications. Several key factors that facilitate or hinder the adoption and diffusion of innovative IT applications are (1) top-level leadership commitment/support, (2) adequate financial resources and human capital, (3) legislative and executive branch IT initiatives, (4) internal and external partnerships with critical stakeholders, (5) reengineering of existing business processes, and (6) development of a communication infrastructure.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Subsequent to GAO's report, there have been a number of legislative and executive branch initiatives in the e-government area. Congress enacted the "E-Government Act of 2002" which contained several provisions specifically designed to encourage electronic rulemaking. The President included 24 E-Government initiatives in the 2003 Budget, including an e-rulemaking initiative being directed by OMB. Among other things, this initiative was intended to address unnecessarily duplicative information technology investments by agencies and "islands of automation" that are not interoperable with one another. An E-Government fund has been used to provide tools to integrate agency investments and fund innovative interagency projects such as e-rulemaking. As a result of a study of existing government on-line rulemaking systems, OMB named EPA the lead agency for the e-rulemaking initiative in late 2002. On January 16, 2003, OMB launched the www.regulations.gov site as the first step in an initiative to build an integrated and cost effective regulatory docket and management system. The first module allows the public to identify and comment on rules and other documents that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register. The second module of the initiative will establish a governmentwide electronic docket management system, and the third and final module will create an electronic desktop to facilitate the rule development process. On May 18, 2005, an OMB representative concurred that this recommendation has been "implemented in our e-rulemaking endeavors."

    Recommendation: The Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, should develop a systematic process by which federal agencies can share information regarding the use of innovative IT-based applications in regulatory management.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Subsequent to GAO's report, there have been a number of legislative and executive branch initiatives in the e-government area. Congress enacted the "E-Government Act of 2002" which contained several provisions specifically designed to encourage electronic rulemaking. The President included 24 E-Government initiatives in the 2003 Budget, including an e-rulemaking initiative directed by OMB. Among other things, this initiative was intended to address unnecessarily duplicative information technology investments by agencies and "islands of automation" that are not interoperable with one another. An E-Government fund has been used to provide tools to integrate agency investments and fund innovative interagency projects such as e-rulemaking. As a result of a study of existing government on-line rulemaking systems, OMB named EPA the lead agency for the e-rulemaking initiative in late 2002. On January 16, 2003, OMB launched the www.regulations.gov site as the first step in an initiative to build an integrated and cost effective regulatory docket and management system. The first module allows the public to identify and comment on rules and other documents that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register. The second module of the initiative will establish a governmentwide electronic docket management system, and the third and final module will create an electronic desktop to facilitate the rule development process. On May 18, 2005, an OMB representative concurred that this recommendation has been "implemented in our e-rulemaking endeavors."

    Recommendation: The Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, should work with federal agencies to identify types of innovative IT-based approaches that multiple agencies could use to improve regulatory management.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

 

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