Ten years later, e-gov compliance is still incomplete

Agencies have done much of what the E-Gov act asked of them, but trouble spots remain.

Ten years after the E-Government Act was passed, federal agencies have made considerable strides adopting most provisions. Yet, a new report from the Government Accountability Office says more work is needed with some of the key areas of the legislation.

GAO’s review found that overall, the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies have taken steps to carry out leadership and organizational responsibilities as laid out by the act, which was enacted in 2002 to revamp the management and promotion of electronic government services and processes.

OMB officials, for example, have issued guidance on how agencies can meet the requirements of the act, and have coordinated annual reporting to Congress on agency compliance. Executive branch agencies also have done a good job on the leadership responsibilities under the act, including designating the officials charged with ensuring compliance with the act, issuing internal policy and guidance, and developing performance measures.

But OMB didn’t always require agencies to report on all of the act’s provisions. For example, from fiscal 2006 to fiscal year 2009, agencies weren’t required to report on how they enhanced public participation by electronic means for development and issuance of regulations. OMB also hasn’t detailed to Congress just which provisions it’s not reporting on and the reasons for excluding them, GAO found.

Additionally, agencies have worked to accomplish the act’s purposes of promoting electronic government and use of other technologies. However, while agencies continue work on improving transparency through various websites, GAO has raised concerns with the accuracy and reliability of this information.

In addressing the requirements for enhancing public access to government information, agencies reported the following milestones:

  • General Services Administration officials created a policy for electronic signatures.
  • A federal online portal was launched to provide citizens access to government information 
  • A website was established to provide the public an avenue to comment on proposed federal regulations.
  • OMB and agencies have made it easier to access, use and preserve government information through, for example, organizing website content and electronic records management.
  • OMB officials have issued policies on protecting the privacy of individuals' personal information on government websites.

GAO also criticized OMB’s failure to create a repository and website for providing public access to information on government investments in research and development. GAO's recommendations to OMB included identify in its annual report to Congress the provisions of the act that aren’t included and why, establishing a federal research and development repository and website, and issue direction on agency participation for this site.

“We have been impressed with the actions that the federal government has taken to implement the vision of the E-Government Act,” Nolan Jones, director of e-government innovation at NIC--a provider of e-government solutions -- told FCW in a statement. “Providing citizen and business access to government information and services is critical, and we believe that the federal government has made significant progress with these activities. In the same way that individuals increasingly conduct private business through the internet, there is a growing expectation that government services be available online as well.”

“Although there is more to be done, we think that the federal government has established a strong foundation for the continued growth in access to government information and electronic services,” Nolan said.

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