[Federal Register: September 18, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 180)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 54597]
                       

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Proposed Rules
                                                Federal Register
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This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains notices to the public of 
the proposed issuance of rules and regulations. The purpose of these 
notices is to give interested persons an opportunity to participate in 
the rule making prior to the adoption of the final rules.

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[[Page 54597]]


GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE

4 CFR Part 81

 
Public Availability of Government Accountability Office Records

AGENCY: Government Accountability Office.

ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: These proposed revisions would clarify and broaden the 
existing exemption regarding the disclosure of congressional 
correspondence and create a new exemption to allow for the withholding 
of records of interviews created by GAO in connection with its work. 
Specifically, the proposed revision to the congressional correspondence 
exemption would enable GAO to release or withhold congressional 
correspondence without prior congressional authorization. The proposed 
new exemption would enhance the open, frank, and honest exchange of 
information from other agencies, nonfederal organizations, and 
individuals to GAO during the course of a GAO audit, evaluation, or 
investigation.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before November 2, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Comments on these proposed revisions may be mailed or hand-
delivered to: Government Accountability Office, Office of the General 
Counsel, Attn: Legal Services, Room 7838, 441 G Street, NW., 
Washington, DC 20548. Comments may also be e-mailed to [email protected] 
or faxed to 202-512-8501.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John A. Bielec, Deputy Assistant 
General Counsel; telephone 202-512-2846; e-mail [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Comments Invited

    GAO is not subject to the Administrative Procedures Act and 
accordingly is not required by law to seek comments before issuing a 
final rule. However, GAO has decided to invite interested persons to 
participate in this rulemaking by submitting written comments regarding 
the proposed revisions. Application of the Administrative Procedures 
Act to GAO is not to be inferred from this invitation for comments.
    GAO will consider all comments received on or before the closing 
date for comments. GAO may change the proposed revisions based on the 
comments received.

Background

    While GAO is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (5 
U.S.C. 552), GAO's disclosure policy follows the spirit of the act 
consistent with its duties, functions, and responsibilities to the 
Congress. 4 CFR 81.1. Application of the Freedom of Information Act to 
GAO is not to be inferred from the provisions of these regulations. Id.
    Under Sec.  81.6(a), GAO is not required to obtain congressional 
authorization before releasing or withholding congressional contact 
memoranda. The proposed revision to Sec.  81.6(a) would clarify that 
GAO is also not required to obtain congressional authorization prior to 
the release or withholding of congressional correspondence from its 
records. This proposed revision would thereby ensure consistency in the 
handling of records that contain information regarding the 
communications between GAO and congressional members.
    GAO also is proposing an amendment to Sec.  81.6 that would enable 
it to protect from disclosure records of interviews created in 
connection with its audits, evaluations or investigations. In order to 
carry out its audit, evaluation and investigation functions, GAO 
frequently needs to interview employees of other agencies and 
nonfederal organizations. The success of GAO's work requires that 
employees of these agencies and organizations provide open, frank, and 
honest opinions during these interviews. Since the terrorist attack on 
September 11, 2001, employees from certain agencies and organizations 
have expressed concern and reluctance to share sensitive information 
with GAO without some assurance that the information will not be 
disclosed to the public. Of particular concern is that through the 
audit process and agency-provided access to their employees and 
officials, a record is being created that would not necessarily 
otherwise exist that may be unprotected from public disclosure. To 
enhance the cooperation from other agencies and nonfederal 
organizations with GAO during the interview process, GAO proposes to 
add a new exemption to Sec.  81.6. The exemption will provide GAO with 
the discretion to withhold records of interviews created in connection 
with its audits, evaluations, and investigations of programs, 
activities, and funding of government agencies.

List of Subjects in 4 CFR Part 81

    Administrative practice and procedure, Archives and records, 
Freedom of information.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, GAO proposes to amend 4 
CFR part 81 as follows:

PART 81--PUBLIC AVAILABILITY OF GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE 
RECORDS

    1. The authority citation for part 81 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 31 U.S.C. 711.

    2. In Sec.  81.6, revise paragraph (a) and add a new paragraph (n) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  81.6  Records which may be exempt from disclosure.

* * * * *
    (a) Records relating to work performed in response to a 
congressional request (unless authorized by the congressional 
requester), congressional correspondence, and congressional contact 
memoranda.
* * * * *
    (n) Records of interviews created by GAO in connection with an 
audit, evaluation, or investigation of a program, activity, or funding 
of a government agency.

    Dated: September 11, 2006.
Gary L. Kepplinger,
General Counsel, Government Accountability Office.
 [FR Doc. E6-15474 Filed 9-15-06; 8:45 am]

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