Watchdog: OMB Must Do More to Cut Agency Reporting Requirements

2010 law called on OMB to annually coordinate a review of agencies’ reports and plans.

The Office of Management and Budget has failed to carry its weight on implementing legislation that aims to save federal employees time and energy by reducing the number of reports agencies submit to Congress, a watchdog found.

Federal agencies are asked to submit thousands of congressional information reports each year. As the government modernizes and reporting requirements change, many of these submissions have become outdated or redundant.

To save agencies from wasting time and effort putting together unnecessary documents, Congress passed the GPRA Modernization Act in 2010, which called on OMB to annually coordinate a review of agencies’ reports and plans. Agencies could then submit proposals to revise or eliminate reports they no longer deemed necessary, which OMB would compile and publish.

However, the Government Accountability Office found that OMB has failed to properly implement the law.

Instead of analyzing reporting requirements annually, OMB has only looked into agency reporting obligations three times: in 2012, 2014 and 2016. OMB also published the proposals it received on its website rather than including them in the president’s annual budget, as the the 2010 law stipulates.

Because reporting requirements are relatively static, OMB said it found little need to conduct a review every year, but GAO concluded the lax implementation of the law may have prevented agencies from submitting certain proposals. Additionally, GAO said publishing the proposals in the president’s budget in addition to would “increase their visibility and usefulness to congressional decision makers and others.”

OMB told the GAO it would address both issues by annually conducting the review and publishing it in the president’s budget.

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney has stated his support for streamlining agencies’ reporting processes, saying the current system favors bureaucracy over effective governance.

“Too often, burdensome tasks have piled up without consideration of whether the requirements collectively make sense,” Mulvaney wrote in a June memo. “In many cases, agencies are asked to spend more time and resources complying with low-value activities versus allocating taxpayer dollars to meet their core agency mission.”

Under the GPRA modernization law, agencies have already submitted 523 unique proposals for changing reporting processes across OMB’s three reviews. Of those, about half were submitted a second time in OMB’s 2016 report.