Paperwork Reduction Act – both Irrelevant and Overbearing


I’ve been reading the Paperwork Reduction Act this morning.  The TARP restrictions Daniel wrote about last week appear to me to violate it, unless these restrictions have been  “specifically authorized by statute.”

44 USC 3506 (link)

(d) With respect to information dissemination, each agency shall—

(4) not, except where specifically authorized by statute—

(A) establish an exclusive, restricted, or other distribution arrangement that interferes with timely and equitable availability of public information to the public;

(B) restrict or regulate the use, resale, or redissemination of public information by the public;

Also, incidentally, the same section requires agencies to certify the following about proposed information collection activities:

(J) to the maximum extent practicable, uses information technology to reduce burden and improve data quality, agency efficiency and responsiveness to the public;

If only these requirements were taken half as seriously as those requirements that keep agencies from using new tools.

In other words, this is SCARY:

(a) An agency shall not conduct or sponsor the collection of information unless in advance of the adoption or revision of the collection of information— (1) the agency has—

[done a hundred things that will take at least 2 months]

While this requirement for a government wide information locator service is completely ignored, and largely viewed as a quaint relic of 1990s information utopianism:

In order to assist agencies and the public in locating information and to promote information sharing and equitable access by the public, the Director shall—

(1) cause to be established and maintained a distributed agency-based electronic Government Information Locator Service (hereafter in this section referred to as the “Service”), which shall identify the major information systems, holdings, and dissemination products of each agency;

GPO still maintains the service described, but I wonder if it gets more than 10 clicks a year.

Someone needs to step up and clarify the Paperwork Reduction Act.  It’s a morass of confusion ranging from complete irrelevance to overbearing intimidation.

A good start would be to amend Section 3507 to exempt “information collection activities which are clearly voluntary and therefore impose no burden”.  There’s a lot more to do than that, but this simple fix would render countless annoying conversations unnecessary.