Implementing the Paperwork Reduction Act:

Some Progress, but Many Problems Remain

GGD-83-35: Published: Apr 20, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1983.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reported on the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) progress in implementing the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980.

The Paperwork Reduction Act established broad objectives for improving the management of all federal information resources. The act established the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within OMB and charged the Director, OMB, with governmentwide responsibility for achieving these objectives. OMB projected that a 29-percent reduction in paperwork burdens will be achieved by October 1983, exceeding the act's 25-percent reduction goal. However, GAO stated that OMB has made limited progress toward achieving other objectives of the act. The act contains 13 tasks with statutory milestones; 5 of the 6 tasks with 1982 milestones have not been completed. GAO believes that the most crucial decision contributing to the shortfalls in completing many of the act's task was the assignment to OIRA of primary responsibility for the Administration's regulatory reform program. As a consequence of its extensive regulatory reform responsibilities, OIRA has not devoted full time to implementing the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress should consider implementing one of the following three options to get OMB to effectively carry out its Paperwork Reduction Act responsibilities: (1) identify the resources needed to fully implement the act and report annually on the resources expended for that purpose; (2) provide separate funding for implementing the act; and (3) provide a separate appropriation for implementing the act and amending it to prohibit OIRA from performing any duties other than those required by the act. The first option could be taken either in connection with the next OMB budget request or required as part of the next OMB annual report under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The second option would allow for Congress to decide the level of resources it wishes to apply toward the act's objectives and would provide reasonable assurance that the funds appropriated were actually applied.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress reauthorized OMB, OIRA, through FY 1989, as part of the budget resolution enactment, P.L. 99-500. In doing so, language was included in the authorization which would limit appropriations made under the authorization to be used only to carry out OIRA functions under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to make appropriate use of other agencies' expertise in accomplishing tasks required by the act.

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

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No specific action was established, but OMB worked with GSA on annually updating the 5-year ADP/telecommunications plan, and tasked GSA with developing guidance for agencies' use in performing self-assessments of IRM activities. OMB also used detailees from various federal agencies to carry out some of its responsibilities. Congress established a reauthorization level for the next 3 years.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to develop a plan, including specific milestones, for accomplishing tasks specifically requiring the involvement of the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Commerce.

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

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: No specific plan has been established, but OMB worked with GSA on annually updating the 5-year automatic data processing (ADP)/telecommunications plan, and tasked GSA with developing guidance for agencies' use in performing self-assessments of their information resources management (IRM) activities. GSA issued an IRM Review Handbook for agency use in conducting these assessments.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to provide clear-cut guidance to the agencies for implementing their responsibilities under the act.

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

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB stated that it would issue governmentwide formal guidance when it was apparent that a problem existed. This is contrary to the GAO view that policy and procedural guidance should be issued up front to enhance chances of effective act implementation. OMB issued an information management policy directive on December 12, 1985.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should assess the feasibility of applying a greater portion of the resources currently available to implementing the requirements of the act, particularly those requirements having statutory milestones. The results of this assessment should be included in the OMB budget submission.

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

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB was showing movement on a broader range of responsibilities than when this report was issued. GAO concluded, in IMTEC-84-24, that OMB was not playing the central leadership role in all functional areas as envisioned by the Paperwork Reduction Act. GAO stated that much remained to be done to fully implement the act and achieve the benefits envisioned.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should identify specifically and include in the budget program and financing schedule the resources needed for timely and effective implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act.

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

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB disagreed that OIRA might need more staff to carry out its responsibilities effectively. OMB stated that it had previously testified and continued to believe that the level resources allocated to OIRA was appropriate and that increases in the OIRA budget would not enhance its effectiveness.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to develop criteria for delegation of clearance authority to qualified agencies and work with the agencies so that delegations can be granted.

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

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB issued very general guidance in its Paperwork Management Regulation, 5 C.F.R. 1320. OMB stated that it was using specific criteria to negotiate a delegation with a particular agency, but has not yet finished the criteria.

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