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OMB Information Quality Act Report May Surprise Critics
The Information Quality Act has not crippled the federal government; IQA requests for correction are not being filed just by 'Industry'; and the vast majority of correction requests would have been filed even if there were no Information Quality Act. These are just three of the conclusions in a recent OMB report to Congress on federal agencies' implementation of the IQA. Some may be surprised by these conclusions. Winston is not.

The IQA sets new quality standards for information publicly disseminated by most federal agencies, and requires OMB and the agencies to develop guidelines implementing those quality standards. Any "affected person" can request an agency to correct information disseminated by the agency that the person believes does not meet the IQA standards. In November 2003, Congress asked OMB to report on whether agencies "have been properly responsive to public requests for correction of information", and to "suggest changes that should be made to the [IQA] or OMB guidelines to improve the accuracy and transparency of agency science."

OMB's report begins by dispelling some of the misperceptions about the IQA. For example, some many environmentalist NGOs and academics were concerned that it would only be used by 'industry,' and that it would only be used to impede the federal regulatory process. There concerns are without any basis in fact. OMB's report explains that all every one is using the IQA correction process. Correction requests are not limited to industry petitioners:

    OMB is pleased to report that the Information Quality Act has been used by virtually all segments of society. Correction requests have been filled by private citizens, corporations, farm groups, trade associations, both liberal and conservative non-governmental organizations...and even other government agencies (an Air Force correction request to the Fish and Wildlife Service). The Information Quality Act has even been used by four [liberal] U.S. Senators....
Agencies are not being overwhelmed with IQA correction requests, as many critics had predicted. The OMB report concluded that "agencies have only received about 35 correction requests that appear to be stimulated by the Information Quality Act." While two agencies, FEMA and the Federal Motor Carrier Administration, have received many correction requests for map correction changes as a result of the national flood insurance program (FEMA), or for incorrect reporting of individual accidents (FMCA), they were receiving the same type of requests before the IQA was enacted. The only difference is that now they're called IQA Requests for Correction.

There is also no evidence that IQA correction requests have impeded agency functions. As OMB stated, "To our knowledge, the Information Quality Act has not affected the pace or length of rulemakings." The OMB report does conclude, however, that agencies are not always responding promptly to correction requests. Developing a better and more rapid response capability is one of OMB's suggestions for improvement in the system.

Another frequent concern about the IQA is that it would somehow stifle scientific research. The OMB report should reassure the scientific research community:
    OMB has heard claims that college professors and their students, if funded by the Federal government, are covered by the Information Quality Act and agency guidelines. OMB believes this is a misreading of the law. The Information Quality Act covers only disseminations by Federal agencies, specifically those agencies covered by the Paperwork Reduction Act. The Act does not cover colleges and universities, even when Federal research funding is involved. More generally, the law covers only agency disseminations, not disseminations made by third parties (e.g., academics, stakeholders and the public). As a practical matter, it may nonetheless make sense for third parties to consider the quality of information that they disseminate or submit to the Federal government. If third-party submissions are to be used and disseminated by Federal agencies, it is the responsibility of the Federal Government, under the Information Quality Act, to make sure that such information meets relevant information quality standards. The agency guidelines establish performance goals and procedures to assist in the agency's evaluation of all information for which agency dissemination is under consideration, whether that information was generated by the agency or by third parties.
Winston has heard many argue that the IQA is merely a tool for crippling the agencies and suppressing science. There is no evidence to support that argument. Winston thinks they're barking up the wrong tree.
  • Click here for OMB report to Congress on IQA .

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