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Electronic Rulemaking: Efforts to Facilitate Public Participation Can Be Improved

GAO-03-901 Published: Sep 17, 2003. Publicly Released: Oct 17, 2003.
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Information technology can greatly facilitate the public's ability to comment on proposed rules that affect them. The E-Government Act of 2002 made the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) responsible for overseeing electronic government initiatives. We examined the extent to which agency-specific Web sites and the new governmentwide Web site permit the public to electronically (1) identify proposed rules that are open for comment, (2) comment on proposed rules, and (3) access regulatory supporting materials (e.g., economic analyses) and the comments of others.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should issue guidance to the rulemaking agencies on ways to improve the electronic commenting process for proposed rules. Specifically, the guidance should instruct the agencies to (1) provide a link to on their Web sites to allow users to identify proposed rules open for comment, and (2) note in the preambles of their proposed rules the availability of as an electronic commenting option.
Closed – Implemented
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum to the President's Management Council dated March 1, 2004. In the memorandum, OMB asked agencies to take steps to encourage public use of The first step was to include a link to on their websites. The second step was to include in the preamble to any regulatory action a reference directing the public to Agencies were asked to ensure these steps were taken by March 31, 2004. Instructions related to the second step were attached to the memorandum.
Office of Management and Budget The Director of OMB should make changes to to improve its capabilities. Specifically, should allow users to identify all proposed rules open for comment within a cabinet department, and should list rules using the titles as they appear in the Federal Register.
Closed – Implemented
In his response to our report, the Administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) noted that OIRA would "work with the Office of the Federal Register and the E-Rulemaking team to follow through with these recommendations." An email from the Director of Legal Affairs and Policy Staff for the Office of the Federal Register (dated December 8, 2003) confirmed that the change was made and that it was made in response to GAO's recommendations. "Many of these things were stuck in the pipeline until validated in your report."

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E-governmentFederal agenciesFederal legislationGovernment informationInformation technologyWebsitesFederal rulemakingFederal registerEnvironmental protectionPaperwork reduction