Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., have taken a step to expand government transparency by introducing legislation to make public agency reports required by Congress.
The Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, S.1411, covers thousands of statutorily-required reports submitted each year to Congress so it can monitor agency implementation of various laws, ranging from homeland security to food safety to environmental protection.
"In the digital age, Congress should be sharing as much information as possible with our constituents through available information technologies, so taxpayers can judge for themselves how well their government is performing," Lieberman said. "This bill represents one more step toward maximizing government accountability and transparency, as well as the participation and collaboration of taxpayers with their government."
Collins said: "Every year agencies are required to submit to Congress thousands of reports that can provide a window into the performance of the government. Unfortunately, access to these reports can be almost impossible for the public and even for many in Congress. Our bill would provide easier access to these reports and greater transparency, so taxpayers can see for themselves, online, the reports they pay for."
Coburn said: "This is a common sense proposal that introduces greater transparency to the reports federal agencies submit to Congress. In addition to eliminating duplication and waste throughout federal agencies, this would allow, for the first time, the American people access to information about how their money is being spent."
The legislation instructs the Government Printing Office (GPO) to establish a website that would publish all reports within 30 days of being submitted to Congress. The reports would have to be searchable by text, key words, agencies writing the reports, and Congressional committees receiving the reports.
The bill prohibits the publication of report information exempt from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to protect privacy and classified information. And the legislation requires no new funding, as GPO can expand its existing website without cost.
Thirty good government and transparency groups support the legislation.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., has introduced companion legislation in the House.