GAO gives e-Rulemaking team an 'attaboy'

Progress made in developing centralized e-rulemaking system

The Government Accountability Office has given high marks to federal officials in charge of the governmentwide e-rulemaking initiative, saying they embraced many industry-standard best practices for managing projects.

The team, spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency, is especially adept at creating a collaborative environment, giving a fair hearing to suggestions from other participating agencies, GAO said.

As part of their approach, program officials put together an advisory board with representatives from 27 agencies. Officials contacted by GAO staff said many of their suggestions were incorporated into the project, according to the report.

"Even when an agency’s suggestion was not incorporated into the system design, they acknowledged that e-Rulemaking officials treated their concerns fairly, completely, and they understood why the suggestion was rejected," the report states.

GAO also credits the project team with preparing a complete business case, developing a sound strategy for deciding how much money each participating agency should contribute and establishing basic metrics for cost, schedule and performance.

Their performance was not flawless, however. They did not adequately document how they came up with design alternatives for the system, and they did not incorporate system performance measures into written agreements with participating agencies, according to GAO.

E-Rulemaking is one of the Bush administration's 24 cross-agency e-government initiatives. Agencies can use the system to publicize and solicit comments on proposed changes to federal rules and regulations. Administration officials estimate they could save as much as $94 million in three years by creating a central e-Rulemaking system, rather than having each agency develop its own.

The system is being developed in phases. The first version, now available at Regulations.gov, allows people to find and submit comments on proposed rules. The second module, now in development, will be a full-fledged electronic document management system, in which all relevant supporting material and public comments can be tracked and stored.

Agencies began migrating to the system in May.

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