On September 28, 2001, and as amended on February 22, 2002, OMB issued final Guidelines to implement section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law 106-554). The statute directs OMB to "issue government wide guidelines that provide policy and procedural guidance to federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by federal agencies." By October 1, 2002, agencies must issue their own implementing guidelines. The guidelines only apply to information that is disseminated on or after October 1, 2002. The administrative mechanism for correction applies to information that the agency disseminates on or after October 1, 2002, regardless of when the agency first disseminated the information.
In general, the OMB Guidelines require agencies to adopt a basic standard of quality as a performance goal and take appropriate steps to incorporate information quality criteria into agency information dissemination practices. Quality is to be ensured and established at levels appropriate to the nature and timeliness of the information to be disseminated, and specific standards may be adopted that are appropriate to the various categories of information that is disseminated. Agencies are to develop a process for reviewing the quality of information before it is disseminated. Further, information quality is to be treated as an integral step in every aspect of the information development process.
In issuing the Guidelines, OMB outlined several guiding principles. First, OMB designed the Guidelines to apply to a wide variety of government dissemination activities that may range in importance and scope. OMB also designed the Guidelines to be generic enough to fit all media, whether printed or electronic. OMB specifically sought to avoid the problems inherent in developing detailed, prescriptive, "one size fits all" guidelines that would artificially require all types of dissemination activities to be treated in the same manner. Second, OMB designed the Guidelines so that agencies will meet basic information quality standards. The Guidelines recognize that some government information may need to meet higher or more specific standards than others, depending on their purpose and scope. The more important the information, the higher the quality standards to which it might be held, for example, "influential scientific, financial or statistical information" described below. At the same time, OMB recognizes that information quality comes at a cost. Accordingly, agencies are encouraged to weigh the costs and benefits of higher information quality in the development of information, and the level of quality to which it will be held.
Third, OMB designed the Guidelines so that agencies can apply them in a common sense, workable manner. OMB expects agencies to use existing processes rather than create new and potentially duplicative or contradictory processes. Finally, OMB recognizes that the Guidelines cannot be implemented in the same way by all agencies. While the implementation may differ, the essence of the Guidelines will apply. The agencies must make their methods transparent by providing documentation, ensure quality by reviewing the underlying methods used, by consulting as needed with both experts and users, and by keeping users notified about corrections and revisions. These underlying principles apply equally well across the diversity of HHS agencies and information dissemination activities, and they have been adopted in the approach to the HHS Guidelines described below.