[Federal Register Volume 67, Number 191 (Wednesday, October 2, 2002)]
[Pages 61946-61947]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 02-25041]



Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, 
Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by the Office of 
Special Counsel (OSC)

AGENCY: Office of Special Counsel

ACTION: Final Agency Guidelines


SUMMARY: Pursuant to guidance issued by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB), the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) published a 
Federal Register (FR) notice on April 30, 2002, inviting public comment 
on its draft report to OMB with proposed OSC guidelines for ensuring 
and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of 
certain information disseminated to the public (``information quality 
guidelines''). 67 FR 21316. This notice describes comments received, 
and announces the availability of OSC's final information quality 

DATES: Final OSC information quality guidelines become effective on 
October 2, 2002

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sharyn Danch, by mail (Planning and 
Advice Division, Office of Special Counsel, 1730 M Street, NW., (Suite 
201), Washington, DC 20036-4505), or electronic mail ([email protected]). OSC's final information quality guidelines are 
available on the agency Web site (http://www.osc.gov, at the ``Reading 
Room'' link).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: OMB guidelines, issued to Federal agencies 
under section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations 
Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law 106-554, 114 Stat. 2763), provide 
that each agency should: (1) develop information resources management 
procedures and issue agency guidelines to ensure the quality, 
objectivity, utility and integrity of information disseminated by the 
agency to the public; (2) establish administrative mechanisms for 
affected persons to seek and obtain the correction of disseminated 
information that does not comply with the OMB or agency guidelines; and 
(3) report annually to OMB on requests for correction received by the 
agency and the resolution of those requests. OMB advises agencies to 
use common sense in adapting its guidelines to information disseminated 
to the public, taking into account the nature and importance of the 
information involved. Finally, OMB encourages agencies to incorporate 
standards and procedures required by its guidelines into existing 
agency information management and administrative practices, under 
applicable laws and OMB circulars.
    On April 30, 2002, pursuant to the OMB guidelines, OSC published 
its draft report to OMB with proposed OSC information quality 
guidelines, and invited public comment on or before June 1, 2002. OSC 
received one response, from the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness 
(CRE), on May 30th, 2002. On June 6, 2002, OMB gave agencies an 
extension of time (to August 1, 2002) in which to submit their reports 
with proposed guidelines to OMB, and suggested that agencies consider 
extending the public comment period on their guidelines. 67 FR 40755. 
On July 8, 2002, OSC published a notice extending the public comment 
period to July 10, 2002. 67 FR 45168. A second response, received from 
Citizens for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) on June 14, 2002, was deemed to 
have been received during the comment period, as

[[Page 61947]]

extended. OSC carefully considered both responses received.
    CRE advised OSC that its response (entitled ``Proposed CRE Generic 
Comments to all Federal Agencies Related to Data Quality Guidelines'') 
consisted of generic comments, provided to all Federal agencies on 
cross-cutting issues that might apply to draft guidelines of only some 
agencies. OSC reviewed the CRE comments, and identified two that might 
apply to its proposed guidelines.\1\

    \1\ Six of CRE's 16 numbered comments (nos. 5, 11, 12, 14, 15, 
16) addressed matters not applicable to information disseminated by 
OSC and, therefore, not addressed by its guidelines. Other comments 
(nos. 7, 8, and 9), critical of guidelines issued by some agencies, 
did not apply to OSC because its guidelines met or exceeded the 
standard(s) suggested by CRE. Several comments (nos. 2, 10, and 13, 
and discussion referring to no. 1) indicated dissatisfaction with 
definitions used in the OMB guidelines issued to agencies. OSC has 
decided to keep any definitions taken from the OMB guidelines, until 
such time as OMB may revise its guidelines to amend the definitions 
in question. As noted by CRE in its comments, ``[a]ll agency 
guidelines are required to comply with the requirements set forth by 
OMB in their interagency February 22\nd\ Final Guidelines. 
(statutory citations omitted).''

    Under comment (1), CRE asserted that neither OMB nor Federal 
agencies have the authority to exempt types and categories of 
information from their guidelines. CRE maintained that the OMB 
guidelines improperly limited the relevant statutory language requiring 
that guidelines apply to ``information...disseminated by Federal 
agencies,'' by including certain exemptions in the definition of 
``dissemination.''\2\ CRE stated that ``any information that an agency 
has in fact made public'' must be covered. OSC's proposed guidelines 
incorporated the OMB definition of ``dissemination'' with the included 
exemptions. OSC believes that no change should be made in its 
guidelines until such time as OMB may revise its guidelines to amend 
the definition and exemptions in question.\3\

    \2\ ``Dissemination does not include distribution limited to 
government employees or agency contractors or grantees; intra- or 
inter-agency use or sharing of government information; and responses 
to requests for agency records under the Freedom of Information Act, 
the Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act or other similar 
law. This definition also does not include distribution limited to 
correspondence with individuals or persons, press releases, archival 
records, public filings, subpoenas or adjudicative processes.'' 67 
FR 8452, 8460 (Feb. 22, 2002).
    \3\ See last sentence of fn. 1, above. OSC's proposed guidelines 
did not add exemptions to those defined by OMB. Those parts of CRE 
comments (1), (3), and (4) that addressed agency guidelines defining 
other exemptions did not apply to OSC.

    Under comment (6), CRE stated that in determining who may file an 
administrative complaint requesting correction of disseminated 
information, agencies should use a broad definition of ``affected 
persons,'' noting with favor the definition OMB used in its guidelines 
to agencies.\4\ While the draft report to OMB described specific target 
audiences for information disseminated by OSC,\5\ a description of 
``affected persons'' was not included in the agency's proposed 
guidelines. OSC agrees that such a description should appear in the 
guidelines. Part IV.C. of OSC's guidelines, therefore, now describes, 
by reference to the target audiences described in its initial report to 
OMB and in OMB's guidelines for Federal agencies, affected persons who 
can file an administrative request for correction.

    \4\ OMB defined affected persons as ``people who may benefit or 
be harmed by the disseminated information ... includ[ing] persons 
who are seeking to address information about themselves as well as 
persons who use information. (citation omitted).''
    \5\ ``Primary target audiences ... are current and former 
federal government employees, applicants for federal employment, 
employee representatives, and state and local government employees 
(i.e., persons affected by or interested in the laws and regulations 
enforced by OSC).'' 67 FR 21317.

    The comment received from CSS also consisted of generic, non-agency 
specific comments. OSC reviewed all the comments and determined that no 
changes to its proposed guidelines were needed. One or more of the 
following factors applied to each comment: (1) OSC guidelines met or 
exceeded the standards suggested by CSS; (2) the comment concerned a 
type of information not disseminated by OSC; or (3) the proposed OSC 
guidelines adopted or mirrored provisions in OMB's guidance to Federal 
    After review of the public responses received, OSC sent its report 
and proposed information quality guidelines for OMB review and comment 
on August 1, 2002, and for final review on September 17, 2002. Pursuant 
to OMB's review and further guidance to Federal agencies, OSC revised 
its proposed guidelines to: (1) clarify that OSC press releases 
typically contain information about matters not covered under OMB's 
guidelines, and (2) conform times for responses to requestors seeking 
corrections of information, and appealing OSC decisions on those 
requests, from 30 to 60 days.
    OSC's final information quality guidelines and September 17, 2002, 
report to OMB are available, upon publication of this notice, on the 
agency's Web site, (http://www.osc.gov at the ``Reading Room'' link).

    Dated: September 26, 2002.
Elaine D. Kaplan,
Special Counsel.
[FR Doc. 02-25041 Filed 10-1-02; 8:45 am]