Environmental Regulation:

Differences Remain Between EPA and OMB Over Paperwork Requirements

RCED-94-254: Published: Aug 23, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 1994.

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GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to comply with federal paperwork reduction regulations, focusing on: (1) EPA management of its information collection requests; (2) whether management problems have adversely impacted EPA enforcement actions; and (3) the effect of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) oversight on EPA information collection efforts.

GAO found that: (1) EPA estimates that it has lost about $2 million in enforcement penalties because it allowed OMB-approved information collection requests to lapse before requesting renewals; (2) EPA believes that poor management and disagreements between EPA and OMB regarding the amount of analysis EPA must produce to get an information collection request renewed has contributed to the increase in lapsed requests; (3) OMB believed that the additional requests for analyses it made to EPA offices were necessary to fulfill its responsibilities under the Paperwork Reduction Act; (4) EPA has developed a status report on information collection requests and OMB is working cooperatively with EPA to rank OMB information collection requests and improve the timeliness of request reviews; (5) no OMB approvals of EPA information collection requests have lapsed since February 1993; and (6) although EPA does not expect that any other of its enforcement actions will be significantly affected by lapses, EPA and OMB need to resolve a number of key issues that continue to cause confusion and delay the information collection request process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB and EPA met and discussed resolution of the issues cited in the report recommendations, with the agencies agreeing to certain conditions and procedures for ICR. OMB also agreed to provide government-wide guidance on accounting for capital costs. Pending the OMB guidance, OMB agreed to accept EPA's approach in making such calculations. To assist EPA employees who prepare ICRs, EPA issued a draft ICR handbook in February 1996. The handbook describes, among other things, the procedures for estimating respondent burden and costs.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, and the Administrator, EPA, should address the differences between the two agencies on the remaining substantive policy and legal issues relating to the Paperwork Reduction Act's requirements on information collection requests. In particular, they should describe in writing: (1) the conditions under which partial and conditional approvals are used; (2) procedures for handling disagreements; and (3) general criteria for approving information collection requests, such as the calculations of cost burdens on respondents.

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

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB and EPA met and discussed resolution of the issues cited in the report recommendations, with the agencies agreeing to certain conditions and procedures for information collection requests (ICR). OMB also agreed to provide government-wide guidance on accounting for capital costs. Pending the OMB guidance, OMB agreed to accept EPA's approach in making such calculations. To assist EPA employees who prepare ICR, EPA issued a draft ICR handbook in February 1996. The handbook describes, among other things, the procedures for estimating respondent burden and costs.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, and the Administrator, EPA, should address the differences between the two agencies on the remaining substantive policy and legal issues relating to the Paperwork Reduction Act's requirements on information collection requests. In particular, they should describe in writing: (1) the conditions under which partial and conditional approvals are used; (2) procedures for handling disagreements; and (3) general criteria for approving information collection requests, such as the calculations of cost burdens on respondents.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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