The Information Quality Act or Section 515, ensures that affected people can seek correction of certain agency information (Section 1(a)(3) of Public Law 106-554, 44 U.S.C. § 3516, note, enacted H.R. 5658 as introduced on December 14, 2000). Included in H.R. 5658 is section 515, which requires that any federal agency that is subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. chapter 35, issue guidelines to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information it disseminates. Section 515 also directs each these federal agencies to establish an administrative mechanism that allows affected people to seek and obtain correction of agency-maintained and agency-disseminated information if the information does not comply with Office of Management and Budget (OMB)-issued information quality guidelines.
OMB issued its Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies. This document serves as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) Implementation Procedures for section 515. It identifies TTB's information quality standards and describes the process to seek correction of TTB-disseminated information that does not comply with the OMB guidelines.
- Key Terms
- General Requirements and Guidelines
- Reporting Requirements
- Privacy Act Statement
These procedures cover information disseminated by TTB (or its predecessor agency) on or after October 1, 2002. These procedures apply to such information, regardless of when the information was first disseminated.
In compliance with OMB directives, we, at TTB, have issued Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Disseminated Information.
These guidelines, however, do not govern all TTB information, nor do they cover all information we disseminate. For example, the guidelines generally do not cover:
- Matters that do not meet the definition of information provided in the OMB guidelines. For example, the procedures do not apply to person opinions if the agency makes it clear that what is offered is opinion rather than fact or the agency's views
- Release or distribution of information or other matter that does not meet the definition of dissemination provided in the OMB guidelines. OMB guidelines define dissemination as "agency initiated or sponsored distribution of information to the public." In addition, information may be included in a TTB publication that is not initiated or sponsored by TTB
- Internal information such as employee records
- Internal procedural, operational, or policy manuals prepared for the management and operations of TTB that are not primarily intended for public dissemination
- Information collected or developed by TTB that is not disseminated to the public, including documents intended only for inter-agency or intra-agency communications
- Electronic links to information on other Web sites
- Correspondence with individuals
- Responses to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act
- Press releases, unless they contain new substantive information not covered by previous releases
- Congressional testimony that includes data that has previously been disseminated
- Comments received from the public in response to Federal Register notices
- Distributions intended to be limited to subpoenas or adjudicative processes (i.e., the findings and determinations made in the course of adjudications)
- Information collected during the course of an investigation that is not intended to be disseminated to the public (e.g., data collected through resolution of an OIG investigation)
- Archival records, including previously released information products that are not being relied upon, used for decision-making, or held out as authoritative data
The complete definitions for information and dissemination and other key terms from the OMB guidelines follow.
Dissemination - Agency initiated or sponsored distribution of information to the public. Dissemination does not include "distribution limited to government employees or agency contractors; intra- or interagency use or sharing of government information; and responses to requests for agency records under the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act or other similar law. This definition also does not include distribution limited to correspondence with individuals or persons, press releases, archival records, public filings, subpoenas or adjudicative processes."
Information - Any communication or representation of knowledge such as facts or data, in any medium or form, including textual, numerical, graphic, cartographic, narrative, or audiovisual forms. This definition includes information that an agency disseminates from a Web page, but does not include the provision of hyperlinks to information that others disseminate. This definition does not include opinions, where the agency's presentation makes it clear that what is being offered is someone's opinion rather than fact or the agency's views."
Integrity - Refers to "the security of information—protection of the information from unauthorized access or revision, to ensure that the information is not compromised through corruption or falsification."
Objectivity - Information that is being presented in an accurate, clear, complete and unbiased manner and whether the substance of the information is "accurate, reliable, and unbiased."
Quality - An encompassing term, comprises "utility, objectivity, and integrity."
Utility - "the usefulness of the information to its intended users."
For the complete list of definitions applicable to section 515, please refer to OMB's "Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies."
We adopt the quality standards incorporated in the Information Quality Guidelines issued by the Department of the Treasury. These Guidelines are based on and will be used in conjunction with OMB's Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies when reviewing the quality of information we disseminate.
Under these guidelines, information we disseminate is divided into three categories:
- General Information - Official reports and plans, brochures, documents, newsletters, and descriptions of programs and services
- Regulatory and Public Guidance - Statutes, rulings, procedures, industry circulars, orders, and decisions
- Statistical Data - Tax data collections, permits data, and special purpose surveys
Information Quality Guidelines
These general information quality guidelines apply to all types of information disseminated by our offices. We will -
- Strive to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information that its agencies and offices disseminate to the public.
- Adopt a basic standard of quality (including objectivity, utility, and integrity) and take appropriate steps to incorporate information quality criteria into their information dissemination practices.
- Review the quality (including objectivity, utility, and integrity) of information before it is disseminated to ensure that it complies with the standards set forth in these Guidelines.
- Treat information quality as integral to every step in their development of information, including creation, collection, maintenance, and dissemination.
- In accordance with OMB guidance, when collecting information that requires OMB clearance under the Paperwork Reduction Act, demonstrate in the clearance package submitted to OMB that the information collection would result in information that will comply with OMB and TTB information quality guidelines.
The following information quality criteria comprise the general standards that our offices will follow in developing and reviewing information and disseminating it to the public.
- Utility - We address utility, a measure of the usefulness of information products to our intended users, by staying informed of user needs through user needs assessment, user feedback, and conference participation.
- Objectivity - We provide assurance that information is accurate, reliable, and unbiased. Objectivity is achieved through editorial and technical peer review and clearance procedures.
- Integrity - We assure the integrity of our data and information products through the enforcement of controls that protect against unauthorized access, revision, or corruption. Some of the controls we use include access control, user authentication, encryption, access monitoring, provision of unalterable electronic content, and audit trails.
We have established procedures for those affected, to seek and obtain correction of TTB-disseminated information that does not comply with OMB's Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies or the Department of the Treasury Information Quality Guidelines. We reserve the right to supplement these procedures as we deem necessary.
People affected by information disseminated by us may seek correction of information that does not comply with OMB's or the Department of the Treasury's information quality guidelines by postal mail or by email in a timely, written request for correction to:
Director, Office of Communications
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Department of the Treasury
1310 G Street, NW, Box 12
Washington, DC 20005
At a minimum, a request for correction should include the following information -
- Name, mailing address, telephone number and, if applicable, organizational affiliation, facsimile number and email address of the affected person seeking the correction
- An indication that the request for correction is submitted under Section 515
- A description of the information that is the subject of the request, which should include identifying details, such as the address (or URL link) of the Web page where the information appears or the title and date of the report or publication containing the information, with citations to the applicable chapter, page, and paragraph
- A discussion of how the information fails to comply with OMB's or the Department of the Treasury's information quality guidelines
- A specific recommendation regarding how to correct the information
- An explanation of how the requestor is affected by this information and how the correction would benefit him or her
- Any evidence that supports the argument for the requested correction
- We may be unable to process a request for correction that does not include all of the above information. In the case of an incomplete request, the Director, Office of Communications (OC) notifies the requestor that the request has not been processed due to missing information and identifies the information that the requestor needs to provide.
We consider the following requests as improper under the OMB guidelines and we do not process requests that –
- Have not been raised within a reasonable time of the dissemination at issue and that concern information that has no continuing significance (such as a request concerning information that is clearly outdated or that we have indicated by a more recent dissemination is no longer relevant)
- Concern matters that do not meet the definition of information provided in the OMB guidelines
- Concern a distribution or release of information that does not meet the definition of dissemination provided in the OMB guidelines
- Are frivolous
In the case of an improper request, the Director, Office of Communications (the Director) –
- Notifies the requestor that we have rejected the request and provides the reason(s)
- Provides a copy of his or her response to the TTB official responsible for the dissemination at issue (the fact that a request has been rejected as improper should not preclude the responsible official from taking any action he or she deems necessary to correct an error)
If a request concerns information that was distributed or released as part of a public comment process (e.g., notices of proposed rulemaking or regulatory analyses) and can be addressed within that process, the Director refers the requestor to the comment process (which involves well-established procedures for obtaining, considering, and responding to comments from the public).
If the Director notifies the requestor that we have rejected his or her request as improper, the requestor cannot request reconsideration under the procedures set forth below.
The Director forwards a complete and proper request for correction to the TTB official responsible for the dissemination at issue and requests a review of the challenged information. If a request for correction involves allegations that are identical or substantially similar to those that have been previously reviewed and addressed by us in a prior response on another request, the Director, after consultation with the responsible program official, may elect to provide the requestor a copy of the prior response rather than initiate another review of the same matter. If the responsible program official believes other Federal agencies may have an interest in the resolution of the request for correction, he or she should consult with those agencies about their possible interests and may consider their input in resolving the request.
In determining whether the requested correction or other appropriate action is warranted, the responsible program official should consider whether a correction is necessary to avoid causing confusion to the public and what type of corrective action is appropriate given the nature and timeliness of the information involved. The responsible program official need not adopt a corrective action that requires such a significant amount of resources that it would disrupt operations or would outweigh any benefit to the public or the requestor that might result from the corrective action.
If, in response to a request for correction, the responsible program official makes a correction or revision, he or she should ensure that the corrected information indicates that information was deleted, corrected, or added, as appropriate, and indicate the date of such revision. To the extent that it is practicable, the correction should be disseminated in a manner consistent with the original dissemination.
The responsible official should prepare a written response for the Director to sign and to send to the requestor. Within 60 calendar days of receipt of a complete and proper request for correction, the Director sends a written response by postal mail or by email to the requestor. The response should inform the requestor what corrective action, if any, we have taken or will take in response to the request. If we do not take any corrective action, the response should inform the requestor of the reasons for this decision and of the right to request reconsideration. The response should also describe the procedures for requesting reconsideration.
If the preparation of the response requires more than 60 calendar days, the Director notifies the requestor of this in writing and provides an estimated date for the completion of the response.
If the correction requestor does not agree with the decision in the initial response (including the corrective action, if any), he or she may submit a written request for reconsideration by postal mail or by email to the following:
Office of the Chief of Staff
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Department of the Treasury
1310 G Street, NW, Box 12
Washington DC, 20005
The request for reconsideration must be submitted within 45 calendar days of the date of the initial response letter. Requests that are not received within this time period will not be considered.
The request should clearly state that it is a request for reconsideration and include a complete copy of the original request for correction. The person requesting reconsideration should also provide specific reasons for his or her belief that the initial decision was erroneous and attach any supporting evidence.
The Chief of Staff forwards the request for reconsideration to the Division Director of the program area responsible for the dissemination at issue. The Division Director serves as the reviewing official on the request for reconsideration and issues the decision on the request, except as provided below.
A Division Director should not serve as a reviewing official if he or she participated in the initial response. In such instances, the Chief of Staff, Assistant Administrator or another Division Director may serve as the reviewing official, provided that he or she did not participate in the initial response. In making his or her decision, the reviewing official should consider the information contained in the request and any supporting evidence, as well as any information the responsible program official relied upon in reaching the initial decision.
The reviewing official may consult with other individuals who possess relevant subject matter expertise, but were not involved with the dissemination at issue. The reviewing official, if other than the Division Director, should prepare a written response for the Division Director to send to the requestor and provide a copy of the response to the OC Director. Within 60 calendar days of receipt of the request for reconsideration, the Division Director sends the requestor by postal mail or by email, the reviewing official's written decision, which must provide the reasons for the decision and identify the information the reviewing official considered in arriving at the decision. The Division Director must provide a copy each to the OC Director and the Chief of Staff.
If the reviewing official requires additional time to complete the review, he or she should notify the requestor of this in writing and provide an estimated date for the completion of the review. The reviewing official should provide a copy of this written notice of a change in the response date to the OC Director.
The Director maintains records on complaints received under these procedures and retains the information necessary to prepare annual reports on such complaints for the Department of the Treasury's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Systems/Chief Information Officer ("DASIS/CIO"). The OC Director prepares annual reports for the DASIS/CIO on the number of the complaints received by TTB and the resolution of those complaints.
Section 515 authorizes the collection of information furnished in a request for correction or request for reconsideration. A requestor does not have to furnish this information, but failure to do so may prevent the request from being processed. The primary use of this information is to allow us to process and reply to the request. We may also disclose information to others as authorized or required by Federal law.