Information Collection - Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995
Division of Policy and Directives Management
What does the Paperwork Reduction Act require?  In response to public complaints about the burden of Federal paperwork, the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) and its implementing regulations (5 CFR 1320) were established.  The PRA requires that every Federal agency obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for any planned information collections.  You need approval/clearance for voluntary collections as well as for mandatory ones and for collections required to obtain a Federal benefit (e.g., a job, a grant, a permit).

What needs OMB approval/clearance? An information collection needs clearance if you:

  • Obtain facts or opinions from 10 or more persons by the use of standard questions or reporting requirements presented in forms, telephone or personal interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and World-Wide-Web pages; requests for narrative responses to questions; requests for identical information, or almost any other means.
  • Require members of the public to provide information to the general public or to some third party.
  • Impose any requirements to label or mark items or vessels.
  • Require any use of technological methods to monitor public compliance with Government requirements, as well as to automated collection techniques.
  • Require compilation or maintenance of records, either along or in conjunction with, the reporting of information.

       Examples of information collected that needs OMB approval/clearance:

  • Grant applications and reports if you collect any information other than by use of, or in addition to, Standard Forms (e.g., narrative proposals, supporting documentation, performance reports etc.).
  • Permit applications and reports (e.g., special use, migratory birds, etc.)
  • Surveys—in person, online, or telephone (e.g, visitor surveys, migratory bird surveys, etc.)
  • Forms – (e.g., reports of sightings of animals, visitor use reports).

 What doesn’t need OMB clearance?

  • "Information" does not include "affidavits, oaths, affirmations, certification, receipts, changes of address, consents, or acknowledgments, provided that they entail no burden other than that necessary to identify the respondent, the date, the respondent's address, and the nature of the instrument."
  • A collection of information aimed at Federal agencies, employees, or Federal contractors in their Federal capacity. 
  • See 5 CFR 1320.3(h) for additional exclusions.

 Who are “persons” under the PRA?  In the PRA, the term “persons” includes not only individual people, but also entities such as:

  • Corporations
  • Universities
  • State, tribal, and local governments
  • Associations and partnerships
  • Foreign citizens, governments, and companies

 Who requests OMB approval?  If you conduct or sponsor a collection of information, you are responsible for obtaining OMB approval.  We (Fish and Wildlife Service, Service):

  • “Conduct” an information collection if we collect the information using Service staff and resources.
  • “Sponsor” a collection if we cause another agency to collect information, contract or enter into a cooperative agreement with another person to collect information, or require a person to provide information to another person, or otherwise causes another person to obtain, retain, solicit, or require the disclosure to third parties or the public of information by or for an agency.

When is the Service a sponsor of a privately conducted survey?  Public endorsement of a survey to be carried out by private party in order to serve our needs may cause us to appear to “sponsor” a survey.  Sponsorship of a privately conducted survey has two aspects, the existence of either of which obligates us to seek and obtain OMB approval before the private party implements the survey.  The first aspect is the reality of sponsorship.  If we review and comment on the text of the privately developed survey to the extent that we exercise control over and tacitly approve it, we are sponsoring it.  The second aspect arises from the appearance of sponsorship; for example, our public endorsement of the survey by the use of the service seal in the survey, or statements in the instructions of the survey indicating that the survey is being conducted to meet our needs. 

Does a grant program require OMB approval?  You must get OMB approval for your grant program before you announce the funding opportunity, if you collect information in addition to the information required in the Standard Forms (which already have OMB approval for the information collected).  Your Notice of Funding Ability must display the OMB control number and expiration date, as well as a PRA statement explaining why we are collecting the information and burden estimates.  Collecting the following types of information requires OMB approval:

  • Narrative proposals
  • Budget narratives.
  • Supporting documentation (maps, photographs, etc.)
  • Performance or technical reports
  • Project- or program specific forms/formats.

If a grantee collects the information, does it need OMB approval?  In general, collections of information conducted by grant recipients do not require OMB approval.  On the other hand, the Fish and Wildlife Service would be the sponsor of a collection of information undertaken by a grant recipient if the collection meets one or both of the following conditions: 

  • Grant recipient is collecting information at the specific request of the Service (i.e., the grant is awarded to collect information or conduct a survey), or
  • Terms and conditions of the grant require that the Service specifically approve the collection of information or the collection procedures. 

If either of the above conditions is met, you must seek and obtain OMB approval, and the grantee must display the OMB control number and expiration date on the collection instrument.

How long does it take to get OMB approval?  It takes approximately 6 to 9 months to get OMB approval/clearance, which includes 3 months for public comment periods.  There are different processes for Information Collection Requests that are not associated with rulemakings and those that are associated with rulemakings.

What happens if I do not get OMB approval to collect information?  If you fail to comply with the PRA, you are breaking the law and you:

  • Cannot require a person to respond to a collection that does not have OMB approval.
  • Leave us open to lawsuits.
  • May affect the Service’s relationship with OMB.

Where can I find OMB approved information collections? OMB’s website, www.reginfo.gov, contains information on approved information collections, both current and historical.  You can get copies of all supporting documents for Information Collection Requests submitted to OMB since 2007.

Where can I find out more about PRA requirements? The Information Collection Clearance Officer in the Division of Policy and Directives Management:

  • Serves as liaison between the Service and the Department of the Interior and works with the OMB Desk Officer as needed.
  • Provides assistance and policy guidance.
  • Reviews regulations, records of compliance, rules, or other documents that prescribe information collection.
  • Advises program offices of impending renewal requirements. Provides training on information collection.

Additional sources of information:

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PDM Contacts:  Hope Grey (contractor), 703-358-2482, Hope_Grey@fws.gov

Last updated: March 19, 2013

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