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Mr. MCINTOSH. Thank you, Mr. Spotila.
Let us now turn to Ms. Kingsbury. If you would summarize your testimony for us, and the entire testimony will be put into record.
STATEMENT OF NANCY KINGSBURY, ACTING ASSISTANT
COMPTROLLER GENERAL FOR THE GENERAL GOVERNMENT DIVISION, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
Ms. KINGSBURY. I'll be happy to do that, Mr. Chairman. We appreciate the opportunity to be here to talk about our work on the implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act. As you know, we have been doing it for some time and testified in some of your previous hearings and we're always happy to do that.
Although the PRA envisioned a 30 percent reduction in Federal paperwork burden between fiscal years 1995 and 1999, our review of this year's information collection budget indicates, as you observed in your opening statement, that paperwork burden has increased during this period. Overall, after small changes during fiscal years 1996 to 1998, Federal paperwork burden increased by 233 million burden hours during fiscal year 1999 alone, the largest increase in any 1 year period since the passage of the act. If projections of fiscal 2000 are realized, this record will not stand for long. Paperwork burden is expected to grow again in 2000 by an estimated 263 million hours.
Nearly 90 percent of the governmentwide increase during fiscal year 1999 was attributable to increases at IRS, as Mr. Rossotti has described. One agency, DOD, appears to have exceeded the burden reduction goals envisioned in the PRA by 5 percent for fiscal year 1999. Another agency, the Department of Agriculture, also seems to have done so, but further analysis indicates that the reductions were largely due to expiring authorizations for information collection, a matter I'll discuss further in a moment.
Some other agencies reported smaller reductions, but it is not clear whether those reductions are meaningful and some evidence suggest they may not be in some cases.
The paperwork burden process recognizes that some increase may occur because of newly authorized activities or programs that require information from the public to implement. However, the process also encourages agencies to carry out their responsibilities with the minimum burden possible and to continue to seek ways to reduce existing burden; that is, by taking nonstatutory actions as they are recorded in OMB's counting system.
In that regard we note that non-Treasury, mainly non-IRS agencies showed a growth of more than 4 million burden hours in fiscal year 1999 from such nonstatutory actions rather than the reductions one might expect.
We have expressed concern in the past that many Federal agencies were in violation of the PRA because they collected information from the public without OMB approval or because their approval to collect information lapsed after OMB's authorization has expired. At last year's hearing OMB said that it would address this issue. Nonetheless the problem of PRA violations continued in 1999.
OMB's information collection budget identifies about 700 violations by 27 agencies in fiscal year 1999; that is, self-reported failures on the part of the agencies to have their information collection activities approved under the act. The real number may actually be larger because there's no way to ensure the timely approval is sought for all the collections that are initiated and OMB may simply be unaware of some. Because of the way in which OMB counts paperwork burden when an authorized collection lapses and is not renewed, the associated burden counts as a burden reduction for purposes of reporting to the Congress. If the collection is subsequently reapproved in a future year it would be recorded as a burden increase in that year.
Meanwhile, the affected citizens have been burdened all along and the data available to Congress for decisionmaking about paperwork burden are clearly inaccurate and in some serious ways it is misleading. There are also reported instances of information collections being initiated without obtaining prior approval of OMB, as PRA requires. These would be very real increases in public paperwork burden that are not authorized and not recognized in the data provided to Congress. We recognize that OMB discloses these violations in its report, but this perverse counting practice distorts the overall numbers that Congress uses to determine if paperwork burden is in fact increasing or decreasing.
At the request of your staff and based on some data that became available in the last couple of days, we developed a rough estimate of the largest information collection burdens or the cost of them imposed by the violations of PRA that were reported in the 1999 information or 2000 information collection budget; that is, those estimated to be 100,000 hours annually or more. Using an OMB estimate of the opportunity costs associated with each hour of paperwork burden that we used, a more limited but similar estimate last year, we calculate that these large unauthorized information collections imposed nearly $4.8 billion in lost opportunity cost on the public from 96 collections in fiscal year 1999.
A part of the problem of incomplete burden estimates and PRA violations clearly lies with the agencies involved. The evidence shows that some agencies have very small numbers of violations despite relatively larger numbers of approved information collections. But we believe OMB and the agencies could do more to avoid or eliminate violations. When we raised this issue with OMB, OIRA officials told us that they notify agencies of information collections that are scheduled to expire soon but they have no authority to require agencies to come into compliance. We don't believe that OIRA is as powerless as this explanation would suggest and both last year and this year we suggested actions they could take to encourage agencies to come into compliance.
For example, we suggested that OMB could issue public notices in the Federal Register to the affected public that they need not provide agencies the information requested in expired information collection. OMB told us that they had taken some steps, such as discussing paperwork burden problems with CIOs and the President's Management Council, but for example they had not issued the suggested public notices. We've also suggested that they consider informing the Vice President, who has overall responsibility for information or for regulatory affairs but they also said they had not done that.
I think with that, since Mr. Rossotti has pretty well covered the IRS side of this story, Mr. Chairman, I'll stop here and we'll handle the rest of these matters in questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Kingsbury follows:)
United States General Accounting Omce
Paperwork Reduction Act: Burden Increases at IRS and Other Agencies
I am pleased to be here today to discuss the implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1996 (PRA). As you requested, I will initially discuss the changes in federal paperwork burden since last year's hearing with particular attention to changes at the Internal Reverie Service (IRS). I will then briefly discuss IRS burden-reliel initiatives that are directed at small businesses and revisit the issue of PRA violations that we discussed during last year's hearing.'
In brief, although the PRA envisioned a 30 percent reduction in federal paperwork between Biscal years 1995 and 1999, preliminary data indicate that paperwork has increased during this period, and that the tncrease to primarily attributable to IRS. Federal paperwork increased by about 233 million burden hours during fiscal year 1999 alone—the largest increase in any 1-year period since the PRA was enacted.' Nearty 90 percent of the governmentwide increase during fiscal year 1999 was attributable to Increases at IRS, which IRS said was primarily a result of new and existing statutory requirements. Some non IRS agencies appear to have exceeded the burden-reduction goals envisioned in the PRA. Although some of these reductione reflect substantive program changes, others are revisions to the agencies' previous burden estimates or are the result of violations of the ach, and therefore will have no effect on the paperwork burden felt by the public.
Federal agencies identified 710 violations of the PRA during fiscal year 1999 fewer than the 872 violations that were identified during fiscal year 1998. However, problems in last year's data make it unclear whether the number of violations is really going down. Even if the number of violations is going down, 710 PRA violations during Docal year 1909 is far too many. As we said last year, we believe that the Omce of Management and Budget (OMB) can do more to ensure that agencies do not be Information collections without proper clearance. We also believe that other federal agencies have a role to play in reducing the number of PRA violations.
Before discussing these issues in detail, it is important to recognize that at
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