OMB Watch Uncovers Flaws in OMB's Data Quality Report

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently published a report to Congress that analyzes and summarizes federal agencies' first year of operations experience using the new information quality guidelines mandated under the Information Quality Act (IQA). The guidelines are supposed to ensure the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated by federal agencies. The report provides OMB's perspective on the first year under the law and the IQA reports submitted to OMB from individual agencies. Unfortunately, OMB Watch's analysis found that OMB's insights are biased and its facts inaccurate. OMB's report is seriously flawed: data is inaccurate, information is misleading, and overall the report is highly biased. For example:
  • OMB claims that agencies only received 35 information quality challenges in Fiscal Year 2003. Yet, even using questionable methodology employed by OMB, the number is 98, nearly triple the number in the report.
  • OMB states that "most" IQA challenges that were denied were appealed and that the appeals process "appears to have fostered corrections." Yet only 28 percent of denied challenges were appealed -- clearly not "most." And of these appeals, only 5 resulted in partial or full corrections -- and 4 of these were for what is called non-influential information.
  • OMB accurately states that a wide range of stakeholders have filed information quality challenges, dismissing fears that these challenges would be dominated by industry. But OMB fails to disclose that 72 percent of the challenges -- nearly three-quarters -- were from industry.
  • OMB claims that the IQA has not slowed down agency rulemakings or dissemination activities. Yet OMB has no data to draw such conclusions. OMB did not collect information from the agencies about impact on rulemakings or dissemination. Instead, OMB relies on conjecture or highly flawed logic to make its point (See links to both the full analysis and the OMB report below).
The template OMB created for the first year reports from agencies does not collect the type of information that would allow for a thorough assessment of the new law. For example, OMB does not ask agencies to send information on the amount of resources each devotes to IQA activities or the impact the IQA has on other agency activities such as rulemakings and dissemination of information. Congress must have such information in order to evaluate the implementation of the law accurately. The OMB report to Congress has so many problems, it probably would not meet the standards established under OMB's own information quality guidelines. There are problems with reproducibility, transparency of the methodology, accuracy of the data, and general reliability -- all key factors under the information quality guidelines. Regardless of the merits of OMB's report to Congress, it is clear that this law has had a significant impact on government operations, and surprising that Congress has never had a hearing -- not even during development. In light of the OMB report, congressional oversight is now needed, including a General Accounting Office assessment of the law's implementation, and hearings on whether the law needs to be modified. OMB Watch's full analysis of OMB's report OMB's DQA Year-1 report to Congress
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