Department of Agriculture:

Actions Needed To Enhance Paperwork Management and Reduce Burden

GGD-80-14: Published: Mar 10, 1980. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 1980.

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A study was undertaken which examines the effectiveness of the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) paperwork management program and policies. To manage paperwork effectively, federal agencies need reliable information on the burden imposed on the public, the use made of the information requested, and the extent of duplicate reporting. To ascertain burden estimates, 87 USDA requirements were analyzed. How reasonable or reliable the estimates are is difficult to ascertain, since neither the USDA nor the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made a comprehensive evaluation.

USDA should improve its paperwork management program to better manage and further reduce the burden imposed on the public. In determining the true burden imposed on the public, burden estimates are used as an indicator to manage and limit the paperwork burden imposed. Thus, accurate and reliable burden estimates are essential. To prepare the burden estimates, the Food Safety and Quality Service (FSQS) relied soley on its program staff's judgment rather than contacting respondents. However, staff judgment does not produce reliable estimates. Additionally, USDA agencies must justify need and demonstrate practical utility when collecting federal paperwork from the private sector. Practical utility is defined by OMB as an agency's ability to use and timely process the information it collects. However, FSQS and the Packers and Stockyards program (P&S) justify need on the basis that the reporting is required under USDA regulations and by law; and the USDA practical utility review is conducted informally without documentation to support what was questioned or changed.

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