USDA waives internal regs for reinventors

tshoop@govexec.com

It didn't take long for agencies to respond to the Clinton Administration's order this week that they make it easier for employees to request waivers from internal rules and regulations. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Richard Rominger announced Wednesday at the Reinvention Revolution Conference that USDA was issuing a blanket waiver from internal rules for all of the department's "reinvention laboratories."

As a result, USDA reinventors will no longer have to request individual waivers from departmental regulations, said Greg Carnill, an executive officer of the department's National Food and Agricultural Council, which handles department-wide reinvention initiatives. They will simply need to report on which rules they have bypassed in their reform efforts.

The new policy, said Carnill, will enable employees to sidestep internal rules that might, for example, require multiple signatures of approval for small purchases. Employees and managers will still be required to follow governmentwide rules, regulations and laws on such subjects as procurement and personnel management.

Carnill said the waiver would apply to dozens of different initiatives underway at various USDA offices, not simply those that have been designated official reinvention labs by the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

USDA employees at the conference were quick to praise Rominger's announcement. Denise Barnes of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said the waiver would make it much easier for front-line employees to implement reforms. "There'll be none of this begging for permission, none of this taking six months to get something simple," she said.

On Tuesday at the conference, Vice President Al Gore highlighted a waiver from USDA rules obtained by APHIS's Tort Claims Adjudication Team. Using the waiver authority, the group, which handles citizens' complaints against the government, reduced the processing time for tort claims of less than $2,500 from an average of 51 days to an average of eight days.

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