Spirit'not deadline'of GPEA met

In many instances, GPEA compliance acts as an incentive for agencies to take part in the administration's e-government projects, HHS' Charles Havekost says.

Olivier Douliery

The deadline for the Government Paperwork Elimination Act came and went last week with the government falling short of 100 percent compliance.

But agencies are not failing to change the way the government performs transactions, and many officials'from senior administration officials to lawmakers'said they are happy with the rate at which agencies are making services available electronically.

So what percentage of required transactions have gone electronic? The Office of Management and Budget won't reveal GPEA compliance figures until late this year, after tallying data agencies must submit in December. But estimates run from between 52 percent and 85 percent.

Government and industry experts said the administration's e-government efforts dovetail with GPEA's requirements.

'By doing work electronically through e-government, we are fulfilling the spirit of GPEA serendipitously,' said Charles Havekost, leader of the Health and Human Services Department's Grants.gov project.

He said agencies participating in e-government projects are indirectly helping efforts to comply with GPEA.

OMB expects Grants.gov and the Small Business Administration's Business Gateway initiative to make more than 4,000 electronic forms available online, which will reduce the number of federal forms by 10 percent. The Business Gateway will let agencies share citizen data online by standardizing and centralizing it. OMB estimated that by next September, the Business Gateway will help the government become 75 percent GPEA-compliant.

An OMB official, who requested anonymity, estimated that agencies put about 59 percent of 7,150 transactions online by the Oct. 21 deadline.

Of the 7,150, roughly 1,500 fall outside the authority of GPEA because they affect fewer than 50,000 people, and another 550 transactions belong to the IRS, which is exempt from GPEA because of the IRS Restructuring Act of 1998. The official said disregarding the IRS and the GPEA-exempt transactions, agency compliance is better than 85 percent.

No fairy tale

'Overall this is a pretty good story,' the official said. 'Agencies could've done better, but GPEA has not gotten lost in the implementation of e-government. A lot of agencies have put a lot of time, resources and energy into becoming compliant.'

OMB will not receive final agency GPEA numbers until December, when agencies submit their results as part of the E-Government Act of 2002 report.

'Even though the deadline is October, we didn't want to put any extra reporting burden on the agencies,' the official said, explaining why progress reports are due almost two months after the statutory deadline.

After reviewing progress, OMB in the spring will recommend steps agencies should take to become fully compliant.

As for agencies not making the grade after the December review, OMB will continue to press the agencies to meet the GPEA requirements through the President's Management Agenda scorecard, through information agencies collect under the Paperwork Reduction Act and through the budget process.

Agencies should expect continued oversight from Congress, too.

The House Government Reform and Senate Governmental Affairs committees are monitoring agency progress. They are considering asking for studies by the General Accounting Office and scheduling hearings.

'We knew this process would not be completed overnight because GPEA requires the re-engineering of government processes,' said David Marin, spokesman for the Government Reform Committee. The committee's chairman, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) 'would rather see agencies not meet the goal than just replicate old processes online and not change the back-office processes.'

The White House expanded the definition of GPEA to embrace the entire e-government movement. 'The Bush administration clearly folded GPEA into e-government and embraced it in early discussions,' said Dave McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government of Washington. 'OMB rarely talked about GPEA except for reporting requirements, but GPEA's objectives were addressed in the E-Government Strategy and the PMA initiatives.'

Grants.gov is an example of how the e-government initiatives bring agencies into GPEA compliance, said Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute in Arlington, Va.

Portal power

With a goal of standardizing grant application forms and consolidating grant information, the project has posted more than 100 grant applications and lets citizens apply for grants through a Web portal.

'Grants.gov eliminates paperwork and improves the process,' Havekost said. 'We are trying to reduce cycle time for a nonprofit or citizen to apply for a grant and receive confirmation.'

Havekost said that during the planning phase, GPEA was not one of the main reasons for doing the project, but it gave the participating agencies an incentive to take active roles.

DeMaio said the e-gov projects are moving the government away from paper processes. 'E-government is about redesigning business processes and streamlining programs, and those are objectives of GPEA, too.'

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