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Freedom of Information Act: Agencies Are Implementing Requirements but Additional Actions Are Needed

Freedom of Information Act: Agencies Are Implementing Requirements but Additional Actions Are Needed, GAO-18-365: Published: Jun 25, 2018. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 2018.

“All 18 selected agencies had implemented three of six Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements reviewed. Specifically, all agencies had updated response letters to inform requesters of the right to seek assistance from FOIA public liaisons, implemented request tracking systems, and provided training to FOIA personnel. For the three additional requirements, 15 agencies had provided online access to government information, such as frequently requested records, 12 agencies had designated chief FOIA officers, and 12 agencies had published and updated their FOIA regulations on time to inform the public of their operations. Until these agencies address all of the requirements, they increase the risk that the public will lack information that ensures transparency and accountability in government operations. The 18 selected agencies had backlogs of varying sizes, with 4 agencies having backlogs of 1,000 or more requests during fiscal years 2012 through 2016. These 4 agencies reported using best practices identified by the Department of Justice, such as routinely reviewing metrics, as well as other methods, to help reduce their backlogs. Nevertheless, these agencies’ backlogs fluctuated over the 5-year period. The 4 agencies with the largest backlogs attributed challenges in reducing their backlogs to factors such as increases in the number and complexity of FOIA requests. However, these agencies lacked plans that described how they intend to implement best practices to reduce backlogs. Until agencies develop such plans, they will likely continue to struggle to reduce backlogs to a manageable level.”

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