Good Comment, Now Who Said It?

April 9, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Is it just me or is our nation’s reliance on technology creating more problems than offering solutions? Ladies and gentlemen, I present as the current culprit.

Back in my younger days covering federal government here in Washington, D.C., before we all were reliant on the Internet, I used to write articles on comments submitted by stakeholders on key issues by actually going to the agency headquarters, obtaining a guest pass and heading the dockets room to view the comments that had been mailed or faxed to the agency. All the comments would be stuffed in a folder (or a series of folders depending on the number received), and I could sort through them, see who submitted them and take notes for my article. The system wasn’t instantaneous, but I could put together a well-rounded story getting angles from all stakeholder groups.

Now the process is supposedly easier as stakeholders may submit their comments electronically using And for interested parties like me, it doesn’t require a trip to the agency headquarters. Now I can just view all the comments online. However, in perusing the comments sent to the Office of Management and Budget on its recent notice of proposed guidance to reform grants management and single audits, the process isn’t as user-friendly as I thought it would be. Most importantly, the system in many cases doesn’t allow you to see who sent the comment or the organization he or she represents. Generally, if the comment contains an attachment, you stand a good chance of finding out who submitted the comment. If not, it just looks like a random comment posted there.

Posting comments this way is faulty. Who submitted the comment? It may be a thorough, well-written reaction to a certain aspect of the proposal, but without identifying who sent it, we don’t know if the commenter is well-versed in grants or some individual with an ax to grind. Perhaps I’m not using the system correctly. Maybe there actually is a way to find out. If so, please let me know. If not, the federal government should really consider this shortcoming and develop a way to better identify who submits comments.

If you have used, have you experienced the same problem? Let me know if you know of a better way to identify commenters and we can share it with our readers.


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