OIRA Needs More Transparency

March 15, 2016

OIRA Needs More Transparency

Statement of Amit Narang, Regulatory Policy Advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Operations is holding a hearing on accountability and transparency at the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

The committee is right to take up the important issue of transparency and accountability at OIRA. Given the significant authority OIRA has to review and potentially veto public health and safety regulations that Congress has authorized, OIRA must be transparent and accountable to the public.

The agency claims its role is to improve the rules it reviews. But how can the public know if OIRA is fulfilling its mission if the agency never shows its work? A 2014 report (PDF) by the U.S. Government Accountability Office made 12 recommendations that would improve OIRA’s transparency and accountability through greater documentation and disclosure of its actions, but so far the agency has implemented only one of the recommendations (pertaining to documentation of meetings with outside groups).

OIRA Administrator Howard Shelanski deserves credit for reducing the enormous regulatory delays at the agency compared to previous OIRA heads, but significant institutional reforms are needed to ensure that OIRA does not return to the unprecedented delays of the past under his successor – and that the agency is fully transparent going forward. Public Citizen hopes that Shelanski will lay a foundation for the next administration by making transparency and efficient regulatory review a top priority during his remaining time at OIRA.

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