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Date: September 30, 2005 -

An industry-funded group is recommending that the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) be revised to make it easier for outside parties to hold EPA and other federal agencies accountable under the law, including suggestions for new legislation allowing judicial review of decisions under the act, according to a new proposal issued by the group.

The group argues that the law should resemble the recent corporate accountability Sarbanes-Oxley Act by allowing outside parties to sue federal agencies if information certification requirements under the PRA are violated. The PRA requires agencies to minimize the paperwork burdens they impose on the public and to maximize the utility of the information they collect.

“The PRA requirements for certification of a fair and independent compliance assessment parallel requirements in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other securities laws,” says a new proposal floated by the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE), an industry-funded government watchdog group. “The PRA differs significantly from Sarbanes-Oxley in that the PRA does not contain an explicit judicially reviewable enforcement mechanism.” The proposal is available on

The industry push may attract the attention of Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), chairman of the House Government Reform regulatory affairs subcommittee, who has targeted reauthorization of the act as a top legislative priority. In a Sept. 28 interview with Inside EPA, she said she had intended to propose legislation on the issue in September, but in the aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricanes, the effort has been pushed back. She offered no timeline for moving a bill, but said she does “intend to get to it.”

Miller’s efforts are part of a broader Republican regulatory reform agenda to make rules less burdensome on industry and heighten accountability for EPA and other agencies’ regulatory decisions. Critics decry the efforts as ways to slow down and thwart regulations.

While the Senate has shown little interest in the effort, observers say the House Republicans appear to be laying the groundwork for a new regulatory reform push.

For instance, the House federal workforce & agency organization subcommittee held a hearing this week on an administration proposal to establish a commission to “sunset” ineffective federal programs and agencies, and Miller’s subcommittee held a Sept. 28 hearing to examine EPA rules that hamper manufacturing. Miller is also considering whether to propose legislation that would widen the scope of the controversial Information Quality Act, which allows outside groups to petition federal agencies to correct information used in justifying policy decisions.

Observers say the reauthorization of the PRA could be a vehicle for these controversial proposals, which critics say would hurt EPA’s ability to efficiently regulate industry.

Under the PRA, agencies must submit all information collection proposals to the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) for approval. The law needs to be reauthorized because the authorization for funding OMB’s Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, which oversees PRA implementation, expired in 2001. Since then, lawmakers have appropriated money for the office through the Transportation and Treasury appropriations bills without reauthorizing new spending levels.

The CRE proposal, entitled The Paperwork Reduction Act Certification Process: The Sarbanes-Oxley for the Public Sector, says the PRA should have a stronger enforceable certification requirement that resembles mandates in the corporate accountability law. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires that corporate financial reports be certified by a company’s chief executive officer and chief financial officer.

The group says a June Government Accountability Office (GAO) report boosts their argument that agencies are not being held accountable for their alleged failure to comply with the law. The GAO said that of 12 case studies, federal chief information officers (CIOs) provided certifications “despite often missing or inadequate support. . . . Further, although the law requires CIOs to provide support for certifications, agency files contained little evidence that CIO reviewers had made efforts to improve the support offered by program offices.”

For this reason, the CRE argues that the act needs to permit judicial review of decisions made under the PRA.

A source with the watchdog group OMB Watch criticizes the proposal, saying the certification requirement would bog down agency regulatory actions even further and could cripple the regulatory process.

The Paperwork Reduction Act Certification Process: The Sarbanes-Oxley For The Public Sector

Source: Inside EPA via

Date: September 30, 2005

Issue: Vol. 26, No. 39

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