Protecting the Public From Unnecessary Federal Paperwork:

Does the Control Process Work?

GGD-79-70: Published: Sep 24, 1979. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1979.

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As of March 1978, almost 5,000 reporting and recordkeeping requirements were being used by federal executive departments to collect information from the public. This paperwork imposes an estimated 785 million hours of burden on individuals, businesses, farmers, and state and local governments. Until the President's Burden Reduction Program was introduced, the clearance process was the only formal check on the federal requirements being imposed on the public. The clearance process, which has changed little since it was introduced 37 years ago, consists of a series of reviews by agency, departmental, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clearance officers. The clearance officer reviews the clearance package to determine whether it complies with the OMB guidelines. Each package must state the need for the requirement; the plan for collecting, tabulating, and using the data; the basis for the estimated burden; the outside organizations consulted; the reasons for "sensitive" questions; and, in some cases, the estimated cost to the federal government. In recent years, Presidential Burden Reduction Programs have emphasized the use of goal setting and ceilings to reduce both the number of federal information requirements and the time needed to complete them.

The OMB clearance process for evaluating proposed reporting demands is poorly structured and does not include an evaluation mechanism or followup on approved requirements. Agency clearance officers are unsure whether they can disapprove, or even revise, proposed requirements for information. As a result, the process of approving or rejecting agency requests for information from the public often has incomplete documentation and offers no assurance that reporting burdens are reasonable.

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