GAO proposes to block public access to audit interviews

GAO proposed rule; request for comments

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The Government Accountability Office has proposed a rule that would allow the agency to deny public access to the content of GAO interviews to ensure cooperation from hesitant agencies and nonfederal organizations.

“Since the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, employees from certain agencies and organizations have expressed concern and reluctance to share sensitive information with GAO without some assurance that the information will not be disclosed to the public,” GAO officials stated.

The new rule, which was announced in today’s Federal Register, would create an exemption that permits GAO to withhold records of interviews without authorization by lawmakers.

“The proposed new exemption would enhance the open, frank and honest exchange of information from other agencies, nonfederal organizations and individuals to GAO,” the Federal Register summary states.

GAO often needs to interview employees from outside agencies and nonfederal organizations to conduct its audits, evaluations and investigations.

Those employees are particularly concerned that a record is being created that might not otherwise exist and that it may be publicly disclosed, the Federal Register information states.

The deadline for comments on the proposal is Nov. 2.

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