Information Management:

Progress in Implementing the 1996 Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments

GAO-01-378: Published: Mar 16, 2001. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 2001.

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The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments, known as e-FOIA, require federal agencies to make certain types of information available for public inspection. GAO reviewed 25 federal agencies and found that they have implemented many of the e-FOIA provisions. However, agencies have not made all required documents electronically available. Furthermore, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies have implemented reporting provisions required by e-FOIA, including annual workload reports. Although these reports provide a good overview of FOIA activities across the government, data quality issues limit their usefulness.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve the public's access to government records and information, as well as to enhance the usefulness of the information contained in agencies' annual FOIA reports, the Attorney General should direct the Department of Justice's Office of Information and Privacy to encourage agencies to make all required material electronically available.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On March 23, 2001, Justice sent all agencies an extensive memorandum implementing this recommendation. It encourages agencies to make all required material electronically available. Specifically, it says "We strongly encourage all agencies to conduct a thorough review of their current compliance with E-FOIA's clear electronic availability requirements. Certainly, if your agency is one of several agencies that were found by GAO to be deficient in one or more of these respects, then your agency has an unquestionable need for improvement right now."

    Recommendation: To improve the public's access to government records and information, as well as to enhance the usefulness of the information contained in agencies' annual FOIA reports, the Attorney General should direct the Department of Justice's Office of Information and Privacy to improve data reliability of FOIA annual reports by (1) providing guidance that addresses the data quality issues GAO identified and (2) reviewing agencies' report data for completeness and consistency.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice's Office of Information and Privacy (OIP) has acted to implement this recommendation. To improve the quality of agency annual reports, OIP has issued supplemental guidance, augmented its training programs, and continued reviewing the reports. In 2002, Justice worked with agencies to improve the quality of data in FOIA annual reports. In the area of requests processed and administrative appeals processed, fewer agencies had data-quality problems in 2002 when compared to 2001. These results reflect OIP's efforts to review reports for data completeness and consistency.

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