Almost thirty organizations recently joined OpenTheGovernment.org in endorsing the Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, a bill soon to be introduced by Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) to make the thousands of reports Congress requires agencies to prepare accessible to the public.
The public has a right to know what unclassified and non-privileged information and advice flows between the executive and legislative branches of government because, among other things, it influences how laws are drafted or amended and how taxpayer money is spent. A recent audit by OpenTheGovernment.org and some of our partners reveals that, even among agencies that are considered among the leaders in open government, only a few make some of this information available, and the postings are far from comprehensive.
The Congressionally Mandated Reports Act would make it easier for the public to find information about how well federal agencies are (or are not) fulfilling their respective missions– from ensuring the safety of our drugs and food supply, to protecting the environment, and monitoring the soundness of our financial institutions– and use it to hold officials accountable for their actions.
Representative Quigley’s bill is similar to a bill that was passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during the last session of Congress (HR 6026). Under the new bill, any report required by statute to be issued to Congress and releasable under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) would be posted on a website managed by the US Government Printing Office (GPO). The reports would be accessible no later than 30 days after their transmission to Congress, and would be searchable by a number of categories.
Once the bill is dropped, we expect it will be referred to both the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Committee on Administration. We understand that the Ranking Member of the Government Reform Committee, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), has already signed on as an original cosponsor. We hope his colleagues in leadership will join him in supporting the bill.