Regulatory Management:

Implementation of Selected OMB Responsibilities Under the Paperwork Reduction Act

GGD-98-120: Published: Jul 9, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 7, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has implemented selected responsibilities assigned to it by the 1995 Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), focusing on: (1) how OIRA reviews and controls paperwork; (2) OIRA's oversight of federal information resources management (IRM) activities; and (3) how OIRA keeps Congress and congressional committees fully and currently informed about major activities under the act.

GAO noted that: (1) OIRA has taken between 3,000 and 5,000 actions on agencies' information collection requests in each year since the 1995 PRA was enacted; (2) at the same time, 20 to 25 OIRA staff members assigned to this task were responsible for reviewing the substance of about 500 significant rules each year and carrying out other statutory, executive order, and policy responsibilities; (3) although OIRA has provided agencies with some guidance on how they can estimate paperwork burden, the guidance is not very specific; (4) as required by the PRA, OIRA has set both governmentwide and agency-specific burden-reduction goals; (5) however, OIRA officials said they do not believe the act requires that the agencies' burden-reduction goals need to total to the governmentwide goal; (6) also, OIRA established the agencies' goals for fiscal years 1996 and 1997 at nearly the end of each of those years; (7) OIRA has not formally designated any pilot projects under the PRA to test alternative policies and procedures to minimize information collection burden; (8) OIRA officials said that other burden reduction efforts are under way, and pilot projects used to satisfy another statute meet the PRA's requirements; (9) OIRA's annual reports do not provide a central focus on how agencies should use information resources to improve agency and program performance, and they only partially describe agencies' progress in applying IRM to improve their performance and the accomplishment of their missions--elements that the PRA requires in a governmentwide IRM strategic plan; (10) however, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) does not explicitly require agencies' information collection requests and budget submissions to contain all of the elements that the PRA specifically mentions as agencies' general IRM responsibilities; (11) OIRA officials said that they keep Congress and congressional committees fully and currently informed of major activities under the act through their annual reports, the Chief Information Officer Council's strategic plan, and other reports and informational mechanisms; (12) however, OIRA's and other reports do not contain all of the specific information that the act requires; and (13) although the annual reports present the changes in burden-hour estimates from year to year, OIRA has not clearly notified Congress in those reports or elsewhere that the burden reduction goals contemplated in the PRA are unlikely to be met, or that OIRA believes that the sum of the agency-specific goals need not equal the governmentwide goal, or that other PRA-required actions have not been taken.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB did not implement this recommendation as GAO had specifically suggested. Its performance plans subsequent to the recommendation have not contained the recommended information. However, in a response dated November 16, 2005, an OMB representative said that OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) now reports each year to Congress in its "Information Collection Budget" on the results of its Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) responsibilities regarding information collection. The representative also noted that other reports by OIRA's Information Policy and Technology Branch and Statistical Science Policy Branch cover many of OMB's other PRA responsibilities, many of which are now intertwined with other statutory responsibilities (for example, under Clinger-Cohen, the E-Government Act, and FISMA). He also pointed out that any changes to the PRA will be worked out through reauthorization of the Act.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should ensure that its annual performance plans and annual program reports to Congress pursuant to the Government Performance and Results Act identify specific strategies, resources, and performance measures that it will use to address OIRA's specific PRA responsibilities. If the Director believes that OMB needs additional resources to carry out its PRA-related responsibilities, or that certain responsibilities or goals should be eliminated or revised, the Director should highlight those limitations and any proposed changes in the agency's plans and reports.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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