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    Subject Term: "Electronic publications"

    3 publications with a total of 7 open recommendations
    Director: Michelle Sager
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure the adherence to requirements for approval and public access to and feedback on significant guidance in accordance with OMB's Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices (M-07-07), the Secretary of HHS should develop written procedures for the approval of significant guidance documents.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In comments printed in the April 2015 final report, HHS concurred with the recommendation and stated that it would explore the best mechanism for distributing written procedures for approval of significant guidance. As of August 2017, GAO is working with HHS officials to obtain additional updates and documentation regarding the department's implementation of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve agencies' guidance development, review, evaluation, and dissemination processes for non-significant guidance, we recommend that the Secretaries of USDA, HHS, DOL, and Education should strengthen their selected components' application of internal controls to guidance processes by adopting, as appropriate, practices developed by other departments and components, such as assessment of risk; written procedures and tools to promote the consistent implementation and communication of management directives; and ongoing monitoring efforts to ensure that guidance is being issued appropriately and has the intended effect. Examples of practices that could be adopted more widely include (1) written procedures for guidance production to, among other things, clearly define management roles; (2) improved communication tools, such as routing slips to document management review; and (3) consistent and ongoing monitoring to determine if guidance is being accessed and having the intended effect.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In comments printed in the April 2015 final report, HHS concurred with the recommendation and stated that it would continue to work with its agencies to share best practices and ensure that agency practices are alighted with departmental standards. As of August 2017, GAO is working with HHS officials to obtain additional updates and documentation regarding the department's implementation of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve agencies' guidance development, review, evaluation, and dissemination processes for non-significant guidance, we recommend that the Secretaries of USDA, HHS, DOL, and Education should improve the usability of selected component websites to ensure that the public can easily find, access, and comment on online guidance. These improvements could be informed by the web and customer satisfaction metrics that components have collected on their websites. Some examples of changes that could facilitate public access to online guidance include (1) improving website usability by clarifying which links contain guidance; (2) highlighting new or important guidance; and (3) ensuring that posted guidance is current.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In comments printed in the April 2015 final report, HHS concurred with the recommendation and stated that it would review current links to guidance documents and explore ways to enhance their visibility and usability. As of August 2017, GAO is working with HHS officials to obtain additional updates and documentation regarding the department's implementation of this recommendation.
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury should consider requiring pension plan sponsors to provide participants with an opportunity to opt out of all forms of electronic delivery, including (but not limited to) disclosures sent by default electronic delivery and disclosures posted on a secure continuous access website.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2013, DOL stated that it was appropriate to consider the merits of broader rights to opt out of electronic delivery and would want to consult with the Treasury Department/IRS on the agencies' different opt-out standards. In FY14, the agency reiterated that dfferent opt-out standards may be appropriate for general plan information versus individual account or other personal information and would consult with Treasury/IRS. They will consider this matter as part of any future rulemaking that modifies or amends the current regulatory safe harbor. In FY15, Labor stated that different opt-out standards may be appropriate for general plan information versus individual account or other personal information, but that was an issue for Labor to consider in consultation with the Treasury Department/IRS should Labor pursue future rulemaking that modifies or amends the current regulatory safe harbor. In July 2016, DOL confirmed that the agency continues to plan to take the above action. As of July 2017, DOL indicated that no decisions had been made concerning future rulemaking in this area.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury should consider requiring pension plan sponsors to send a periodic paper notice to participants reminding them of their right to change their preferred delivery method at any time and the steps they must take to make these changes.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In FY13, DOL stated that it was appropriate to obtain further input on requiring some periodic paper reminder notice. In FY14, the agency reported that the sort of periodic notice described by GAO could be a safeguard against malfunctions in the electronic communication system and act as a reminder that important plan information is being provided through electronic media. DOL will consider and obtain further input on requiring a periodic paper reminder of as part of any future rulemaking that modifies or amends the current regulatory safe harbor. In FY15, Labor stated that the agency intends to consider and obtain further input on requiring a periodic paper reminder should we pursue future rulemaking that modifies or amends the current regulatory safe harbor. In July 2016, DOL confirmed that the agency continues to plan to take the above action. As of July 2017, DOL indicated that no decisions had been made concerning future rulemaking in this area.
    Director: Stephenson, John B
    Phone: (202)512-6225

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA's library network continues to meet its users' needs, the Administrator of EPA should, in future assistance agreements, make explicit that EPA can include in the agency's public online database, without obtaining prior permission from the copyright holder, any documents produced under the agreements.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: EPA released its "Plan to Increase Access to Results of EPA-Funded Scientific Research" dated November 29, 2016. According to the plan, its purpose is to describe steps that EPA will take to increase the availability of the results of EPA-funded research to the scientific community, environmental policy makers, other stakeholders, and the public in order to accelerate scientific breakthroughs that support the agency's mission and policy making efforts. The plan notes that EPA will create a Forum on Increasing Public Access to EPA Research to implement the plan, and the forum should be established within 4 months after approval of the plan. The plan includes language stating that regulatory licenses for grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements allow the agency to provide the public with access. Upon full implementation, EPA plans to develop extramural award terms and provide guidance to future award recipients and contractors regarding public access to publications, including refraining from signing any agreements with publishers that purport to restrict EPA?s license rights, according to EPA.
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA's library network continues to meet its users' needs, and for future assistance agreements where EPA cannot make such an arrangement, EPA should digitize documents produced under the agreements and make them available to federal employees and other authorized users for federal government purposes.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: EPA released its "Plan to Increase Access to Results of EPA-Funded Scientific Research" dated November 29, 2016. According to the plan, its purpose is to describe steps that EPA will take to increase the availability of the results of EPA-funded research to the scientific community, environmental policy makers, other stakeholders, and the public in order to accelerate scientific breakthroughs that support the agency's mission and policy making efforts. The plan notes that within 4 months of the approval of the plan, EPA will begin developing additional processes, infrastructure, language, and training needed to increase public access to EPA-funded extramural research publications and data. Once adopted, implementation will begin prospectively with 2018 funded extramural requests for applications for grants, contracts, and cooperative/assistance agreements, according to the plan.