The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA; 44 U.S.C. 3501, et seq.), and its implementing regulations at 5 CFR 1320, governs Federal agencies’ collection of information from the American public. The primary goals of the PRA are to:
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) PRA Program focuses on providing the DOI bureaus and offices with the most efficient possible ways of obtaining PRA approvals, while ensuring maximum utilization of information across the various bureaus within DOI. This is achieved by establishing a closely integrated team of Information Collection Clearance Officers (ICCO) from each of the DOI bureaus and offices, and by leveraging automation, wherever possible.
The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) is responsible for overseeing the PRA process. Within the DOI, the Chief Information Officer is the Senior Agency Official. The DOI Information Collection Clearance Officer (D-ICCO), within the Information Management Branch, OCIO, has been delegated all information collection Program responsibilities. Requests for information collections subject to the PRA require two public comment periods (generally 60- and 30-days) in the Federal Register, reviewed by the D-ICCO, and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The D-ICCO certifies that the DOI program agency has fully complied with all provisions of the PRA and other applicable laws and policies. The D- ICCO also reviews and approves all PRA submissions prior to transmission to OMB.
The Departmental and bureau/office ICCOs review information collection requirements contained in regulatory documents and in non-regulatory information collection requests to ensure:
When checking if PRA clearance is needed for an information collection, consider the following:
The type of information collected will help to determine the need for PRA clearance. The following are examples of information that require PRA clearance:
Open-ended requests seeking comments or general feedback do not require a PRA clearance. Always consult with your ICCO when collecting any information from the public.
Respondents can be individuals in households businesses, non-profit entities, universities, and Local, State and Tribal governments.
Generally, if information is being requested from fewer than 10 people, PRA clearance is not needed (see note below about information collections contained in a rulemaking).
If the information is being requested from 10 or more people or entities over a 12-month period, PRA clearance is needed.
The “10 or more” rule is irrelevant for any requirement contained in a rulemaking or if it is addressed to all or a substantial majority of an industry (e.g. if there are only five main companies in a particular industry).
"Information" does not include "affidavits, oaths, affirmations, certification, receipts, changes of address, consents, or acknowledgments; provided that they entail no burden other than that necessary to identify the respondent, the date, the respondent's address, and the nature of the instrument."
If information is collected from Federal employees, contractors, or military personnel as part of their job, then PRA clearance is not needed. However, if the information is not part of their work-related duties, PRA clearance may be needed.
Information stemming from the methods of direct observation, general open-ended requests for public input, and information asked or received in connection with a public hearing or meeting do not require PRA clearance.
If Federal Government staff verbally gather information from a respondent, the information is still subject to the PRA, regardless of whether the respondent physically fills out the form themselves. The information gathered from the respondent (in-person, telephonically, or electronically) is subject to the PRA, regardless of the method used to gather it.
Whether the information collection is voluntary (i.e., the public is not required by law to provide information), required to obtain or retain a benefit, or mandatory, the PRA treats the collection the same.
The PRA approval process requires a clear rationale for why the proposed information collection is necessary.
Criteria evaluated when examining why information should be collected include:
An agency must have a need for the information or data to be collected, based on program or policy requirements. In the Federal Government, it is essential to ensure that burden is only imposed on the public for very specific reasons.
The PRA clearance process from agency development to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) decision may take six to nine months. In most cases, at least three months of public comment are required by law. Please note that if you are dealing with a collection of information stemming from a proposed rule the process is slightly different.
The DOI Standard Clearance Process Includes:
It is DOI policy to ensure all information collected from the public adheres to the requirements of the PRA which is a law. Compliance with the PRA is mandatory. Collecting information without clearance can open the subsequent work, including decisions made based on the information, to legal challenge. If uncleared collections or changes are discovered, the OIRA may insist that the collections are stopped. The OMB reports PRA violations to Congress and the President in their annual report, “Information Collection Budget.”
The following links provide additional information about DOI’s Paperwork Reduction Act Program: