Paperwork Reduction Act:

Changes Needed to Annual Report

GAO-02-651R: Published: Apr 29, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 2002.

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The Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) prepares an annual report on the implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act. OIRA's fiscal year 2002 report differed from the agency's previous reports in two important respects. First, the report provided agency-specific information on paperwork burden-hour estimates and violations only for the cabinet departments and the Environmental Protection Agency, but not for for the 12 independent agencies that had been included previously. Second, the report merged data on causes of changes in agencies' burden-hour estimates that previously had been presented separately. According to OIRA the agencies were excluded because (1) OMB's authority over the independent agencies is limited, (2) most independent agencies have total burden inventories under 10 million hours, and (3) OMB can best use its limited resources by focusing on the agencies that impose the most paperwork burden and over which OMB has more authority. OIRA classifies modifications in agencies' burden-hour estimates as either "adjustments" or "program changes." Although OIRA reported adjustments and program changes as separate data in fiscal years 2000 and 2001, the fiscal year 2002 report only included information in one column. As a result, it is no longer possible to determine the specific causes of the program changes reported.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should ensure that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs' (OIRA) annual report on the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) for fiscal year 2003 contains burden-hour estimates and information on PRA violations for all the agencies covered by the act. At a minimum, the report should include agency-specific data on burden estimates and violations for all agencies whose burden estimates and/or number of violations exceed those of the cabinet departments traditionally included in the report.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its annual reports on PRA for fiscal year 2003 (as well as those since released for 2004 and 2005) OIRA included agency-specific information for the independent agencies (such as FCC, FTC, SEC, and SSA) that GAO had identified as not included in the fiscal year 2002 report.

    Recommendation: The Director of OMB should ensure that the fiscal year 2003 report's summary burden-hour table identify in separate columns the program changes that are attributable to new statutes, agency actions, and reinstatements and/or expirations. Doing so will enable Congress and the public to better understand why agencies' burden estimates change, and will improve the transparency and accessibility of government information.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its annual reports on PRA for fiscal year 2003 (as well as those since released for 2004 and 2005), OIRA's summary tables on burden-hour changes included the separate columns recommended by GAO to identify the program changes that are attributable to new statutes, agency actions, and reinstatements and/or expirations.

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