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The White House is Violating Its Own Transparency Policy

Open government groups press OMB on delayed agency guidance.

The White House office in charge of enforcing agency compliance with President Obama’s open government directive has itself failed to comply with requirements that it update guidance in a timely manner, a coalition of 20 transparency groups charged on Monday.

The Office of Management and Budget has also declined to be open about its schedule for producing the guidance, according to a letter sent to Obama by the nonprofit alliance OpentheGovernment.org.

The groups cite the requirement for agencies to implement transparency principles under Obama’s 2009 memorandum on transparency and a subsequent OMB directive instructing agencies to develop and publish an open government plan and update it every two years. In addition, in February 2014, the White House Office of Science and Technology issued guidance for agencies to update their 2014 transparency plans, addressing such issues as whistleblower protections, records management and implementing the Freedom of Information Act.

"Our community has repeatedly expressed concern over the failure of OMB to meet its open government obligations," said Patrice McDermott, executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org. "It is now time for the president to direct OMB to take immediate steps to comply with the Open Government Directive and update its Open Government Plan in line with the 2014 guidance."

The purpose behind all the guidance, the groups stress, is to encourage agencies to link openness with their missions and address public concerns. “OMB’s failure to comply with these requirements is particularly troubling because OMB plays a central oversight role on information policy, and often serves as the right hand of the president,” the letter said. Nearly all agencies have complied, but OMB’s last update was in 2010.

The administration has been working with international groups on a third “National Action Plan” to promote open government. The letter to Obama—signed by library groups and the American Civil Liberties Union among others—was also copied to Howard Shelanski, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

OMB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Image via Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.com)