Program To Follow Up Federal Paperwork Commission Recommendations Is in Trouble

GGD-80-36: Published: Mar 14, 1980. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 1980.

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Congress created the Commission on Federal Paperwork to help solve a serious national problem and mandated a meaningful executive branch response. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been charged with following up on recommendations to the Federal agencies made by the Commission. In reviewing the OMB program, GAO sampled a broad section of responses from three leading agencies responsible for over half of the Commission's recommendations. A number of fundamental problems was found, and GAO determined that the followup program needed to be redesigned and given stronger leadership.

Although Commission recommendations were addressed to agency heads, OMB did not consult with top managers in developing the followup program. Instead of naming lead agencies to manage responses for cross-agency recommendations, OMB asked for separate responses from each individual agency. Actions taken by agencies to implement the recommendations were not disclosed, and often no action was taken. Alternatives to the recommendations were not examined. Instead, where recommendations could not be followed as written, they were often rejected outright. The rejections were often decided at relatively low levels within the agencies. Many recommendations were excluded from followup. OMB has not submitted a legislative program to Congress despite its statutory responsibility to do so. The followup program was eliciting such poor information that OMB reports to Congress and the President often overstated the program's success and provided inaccurate status claims.

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