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entitled 'Paperwork Reduction Act: Changes Needed to Annual Report' 
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United States General Accounting Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

April 29, 2002: 

The Honorable Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. 
Office of Management and Budget: 

Subject: Paperwork Reduction Act: Changes Needed to Annual Report: 

Dear Mr. Daniels: 

On April 11, 2002, we testified before the House Committee on 
Government Reform's Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources 
and Regulatory Affairs about the implementation of the Paperwork 
Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995.[Footnote 1] Our testimony was based in 
part on information that was collected by the Office of Management and 
Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to 
prepare its annual report to Congress on the implementation of the 
PRA. As was mentioned in our testimony, 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 (EPA), and did not include any 
such information for 12 independent agencies that had been included in 
previous reports. Second, the report merged data on the causes of 
changes in agencies' burden-hour estimates that previously had been 
presented separately. This letter is intended to bring those issues 
directly to your attention and to recommend corrective actions. 

Most Independent Agencies Not Included in Annual Report: 

In previous annual reports on the PRA, OIRA provided agency-specific 
burden-hour estimates and information on PRA violations for 27 
departments and agencies, including 13 independent agencies that are 
not cabinet-level departments. However, OMB Bulletin No. 02-02 (Oct. 
17, 2001) asked only one independent agency—EPA—to submit the 
information used to compile the fiscal year 2002 report. OIRA did not 
indicate in the bulletin why other agencies were not required to 
provide information. However, in his prepared statement at the April 
11, 2001, hearing, the OIRA administrator said the agencies were 
excluded because (1) OMB's authority over the independent agencies is 
limited, so its "ability to influence their information collection 
policies through OMB oversight is constrained;" (2) most independent 
agencies have total burden inventories of under 10 million hours; and 
(3) OMB has limited resources, and it can best use those resources by 
focusing on the agencies that impose the most paperwork burden and 
over which OMB has "the most direct authority under the PRA to approve 
or disapprove information collections." 

We do not believe that these explanations justify the exclusion of all 
but one of the independent agencies from OMB's annual report. Data 
that we obtained from the Regulatory Information Service Center 
indicated that some of the excluded independent agencies had larger 
estimated paperwork inventories and numbers of violations than several 
of the agencies that were included in OIRA's report.[Footnote 2] As of 
September 30, 2001, 6 of the 12 independent agencies that OIRA omitted 
from its fiscal year 2002 report estimated their paperwork burden at 
more than 10 million hours.[Footnote 3] One of these agencies (the 
Securities and Exchange Commission) estimated its burden at 114.3 
million hours. In contrast, 3 of the 15 departments and agencies that 
were included in the report estimated that their paperwork burden was 
less than 10 million hours.[Footnote 4] Also, two of the independent 
agencies not included in this year's report (the Federal Emergency 
Management Agency and the Small Business Administration) had more PRA 
violations last year than eight of the agencies that OIRA included in 
this year's report. 

Section 3514(a) of the PRA requires OIRA to keep Congress "fully and 
currently informed" of the major activities under the act, and 
specifically requires that its report include "a list of any increase 
in the collection of information burden" and "a list of all violations 
of this chapter." We do not believe that OIRA's annual report for 
fiscal year 2002 fully satisfies these requirements. Meeting these 
reporting requirements is not, in our opinion, a function of resources 
or differences in OIRA's authority regarding independent regulatory 
agencies. Although OIRA can provide summary data for agencies with 
little PRA activity, we believe that it should provide detailed 
information on at least those agencies whose paperwork estimates 
and/or number of violations exceed those of the departments and 
agencies that are included in its report. 

Reasons for Program Changes are Unclear: 

OIRA classifies modifications in agencies' burden-hour estimates as 
either "adjustments" or "program changes." Adjustments are caused by 
factors not related to deliberate government action, such as changes 
in the population responding to a requirement or agency reestimates of 
the burden associated with a collection of information. Program 
changes are the result of deliberate federal government action (e.g., 
the addition or deletion of questions on a form), and can occur as a 
result of new statutory requirements, agency-initiated actions, or 
through the expiration or reinstatement of OIRA-approved collections. 

In the annual PRA reports for fiscal years 2000 and 2001, OIRA 
indicated in separate columns in its summary table whether the 
fluctuations in agencies' burden-hour estimates that were caused by 
program changes were, in turn, caused by new statutes or agency 
actions. By providing this information in separate columns, the reader 
could determine whether any program change increase or decrease in an 
agency's estimated paperwork burden was attributable to Congress or 
the agency itself. However, in the annual report for fiscal year 2002 
that was released on April 11, 2002, the agency actions/new statutes 
information was provided in a single column. As a result, Congress and 
the public are no longer able to determine the specific causes of the 
program changes reported. 

We believe that OIRA could improve the quality and transparency of the 
information in its annual report by reporting the program changes due 
to new statutes and agency actions in separate columns of its summary 
table. Also, OIRA could enhance information quality and transparency 
even further by providing another column to the table identifying the 
changes due to reinstatements and/or expirations. For several years, 
readers of the annual report who wanted to know how many of the 
changes in agencies' burden estimates were due to reinstatements 
and/or expirations had to calculate those amounts by subtracting the 
"new statutes" and "agency action" values from the program change 
totals. Adding a column that explicitly shows the changes due to 
reinstatements and/or expirations would eliminate the need for 
Congress and the public to perform those calculations. 


We recommend that the director of OMB ensure that OIRA's annual report 
on the PRA for fiscal year 2003 contain burden-hour estimates and 
information on PRA violations for all of 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. 

We also recommend that the director 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 Comments and Our Evaluation: 

On April 17, 2002, we provided a draft of this report to the director 
of OMB for his review and comment. On April 25, 2002, OIRA officials 
told us that the agency would reconsider its decision to limit the 
scope and detail of the annual report on the PRA in light of our 
recommendations. In particular, they said that OMB would include the 
12 agencies in its fiscal year 2003 annual report that had been 
omitted in the fiscal year 2002 report. 

We are sending copies of this letter to the appropriate congressional 
committees and the administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory 
Affairs. The letter is also available on GAO's homepage at [hyperlink,]. If you or your staff have any questions on the 
matters discussed in this letter, you may contact Curtis Copeland or 
me at (202) 512-6806. 

Sincerely yours, 

Signed by: 

Victor S. Rezendes: 
Managing Director: 
Strategic Issues: 


[End of section] 


[1] U.S. General Accounting Office, Paperwork Reduction Act: Burden 
Increases and Violations Persist, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 11, 

[2] The Regulatory Information Service Center is part of the General 
Services Administration but works closely with OIRA to provide 
information to the president, Congress, and the public about federal 
regulations. It maintains a database that includes information on all 
information collection review actions by OIRA. 

[3] These six agencies were the Federal Communications Commission 
(40.1 million hours), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (10.5 
million hours), the Federal Trade Commission (72.6 million hours), the 
Securities and Exchange Commission (114.3 million hours), the Social 
Security Administration (24.2 million hours), and the Federal 
Acquisition Regulations (submitted by the General Services 
Administration) (23.8 million hours). 

[4] These agencies were the departments of Energy (3.9 million hours), 
Interior (7.6 million hours), and Veterans Affairs (5.3 million hours).