CRE’s Emphasis on Data Access and Data Quality is Rooted in the Paperwork Reduction Act Amendments of 1995

Notwithstanding regulatory folklore to the contrary, the Data Access Act and the Data Quality Act did not evolve from an overreach of centralized regulatory review but instead are based upon an explicit grant of authority from the Congress to the Director of OMB in the 1995 Amendments to the Paperwork Reduction Act.

44 U.S. Code § 3504 – Authority and functions of Director

  • The Director shall oversee the use of information resources to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of governmental operations to serve agency missions, including burden reduction and service delivery to the public. In performing such oversight, the Director shall—(B) provide direction and oversee—

                   (ii)  agency dissemination of and public access to information;

The Data Access Act and the Data Quality Act were passed because notwithstanding continued requests by members of Congress for OMB to comply with the aforementioned statutes OMB refused to comply with the prevailing statute.

Nonetheless, and much to their credit, subsequent to the passage of the Data Quality Act OMB did an excellent job in implementing it (2002) notwithstanding the fact that years earlier with the passage of the Data Access Act they neutered it through modifications to OMB Circular  A-110.

It should be emphasized that the Data Quality Act grants OMB explicit authority to review agency regulations in that the “guidelines” developed to implement the Act are to be issued pursuant to Section 3516 of the PRA which gives OMB the authority to issue binding regulations, an observation often overlooked in learned journal articles of administrative law when addressing the legality of centralized regulatory review. More specifically 3506(a)(1)(B),  states that “The head of each agency shall be responsible for … complying with the requirements of this subchapter and related policies established by the Director.”  Together with 3516, this makes clear that any policy statement that OMB issues on data quality is a binding legislative rule.  In other words, OMB is in charge, and all the agencies must follow its lead.

N. B.  A close reading of the aforementioned letter from a Member of Congress makes clear that there were Congressional hearings on the DQA well before its enactment. The hearings were in the Appropriations Committees—not the legislative committees—because the Congress had previously enacted a statute, the Paperwork Reduction Act, directing OMB to issue data quality guidelines. Therefore the myriad of press accounts over the last two decades charging that there were no Congressional hearings are false (WK DQA)  and might have preceded the concept of fake news.

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