OMB Actions Show Progress in Implementing the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980

IMTEC-84-24: Published: Sep 7, 1984. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1984.

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Thomas P. Giammo
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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on whether: (1) the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is making progress in implementing the Paperwork Reduction Act; (2) OIRA should be reauthorized; (3) conflicts exist between a 6-year program to improve the management and administrative systems across the federal government and OIRA activities; (4) claims of reduced paperwork burdens are accurate; (5) OIRA staff time is being diverted to activities other than paperwork reduction; (6) the annual report to Congress meets the act's annual reporting requirements; and (7) OIRA is making a sincere effort to accomplish the intent of the act.

GAO found that, since April 1983, OIRA has initiated guidance on information technology and statistical activities and made progress in the areas of paperwork management and agency reviews. OIRA has provided limited verbal guidance to agencies in four areas of responsibility and written guidance on paperwork management. OIRA has initiated joint reviews of agency management activities. However, these reviews have not resulted in reports to Congress. GAO found no conflict between the 6-year program to improve management and administrative systems across the federal government and OIRA activities. In addition, paperwork burden reductions have been considerable, but not as great as OMB has claimed. Furthermore, OIRA staff have reported that a substantial amount of their time is spent on tasks related to paperwork reduction. GAO found that OIRA actions have met the act's annual report requirements and, since the 1983 report, OIRA has completed 2 of the 13 tasks which Congress considered essential for successful implementation of the act. OIRA issued a 5-year automatic data processing and telecommunications plan and has developed a Federal Information Locator System, audit standards, and a draft information resources management plan. However, much more needs to be done before the act can be considered fully implemented. Based on the results of the review, GAO had no basis to conclude that the OIRA efforts to implement the act are not sincere.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No oversight hearings of OMB implementation of the act have been scheduled since the report's issuance. OMB does not believe that additional staff are needed. The reauthorization level for the next 3 years approximates the current OMB expenditure level for OIRA.

    Matter: Congress and the appropriate congressional committees should explore with the Director, OMB, whether OIRA progress to date meets congressional expectations and whether additional resources should be approved to speed progress in implementing the act.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress reauthorized OMB, OIRA, through fiscal year (FY) 1989 as part of the budget resolution enactment, P.L. 99-500.

    Matter: Congress should reauthorize funding for the Paperwork Reduction Act and OIRA.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The act requires agencies to assess their information activities and a GSA-developed guide will help them fulfill this. The act requires OMB to review/audit agency information activities and report the results to Congress. OMB has done little to implement this. Its agreement to establish procedures to report agencies' self-assessments does not fulfill this requirement.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to inform the appropriate congressional committees of how it intends to meet its obligations under the act to report the results of information resource management reviews to them.

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

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Action relates to another GAO recommendation on OMB providing guidance in all areas covered by the act. OMB is providing formal written guidance only in a limited number of areas because of its views on issuing central guidance cited in other GAO recommendations.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to establish time frames for limiting further experimentation by agencies in implementing the act and, after a timely evaluation of the initiatives, establish guidance for all agencies to follow.

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

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB stated that it would issue guidance when it is apparent that there is a problem. OMB issued a new information policy directive, rescinding four existing policy/procedure directives on December 12, 1985.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to take prompt action to provide clear, updated, written guidance to the agencies for implementing their responsibilities in all areas covered by the act, including the areas of information technology, statistics, privacy, and records management.

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

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB disagreed with the GAO position on the OMB/agency claims. By omitting the claims, OMB would not meet the act's goals. Because of what OMB counted as burden, GAO concluded that agency actions did not eliminate the burden imposed by a federal requirement. GAO believes these should have been considered adjustments to the base figure rather than burden reductions.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to claim as burden reductions only actual reductions of federal burden imposed on the affected respondent groups.

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


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