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National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities Compliance With Freedom of Information Act and Federal Advisory Committee Act

GGD-81-34: Published: Dec 31, 1980. Publicly Released: Jan 14, 1981.

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GAO was requested to review the compliance by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities with certain provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The FOIA gives the public certain access rights to Government records and requires agencies which deny such access to advise requestors of the legal basis for the denial and the appeal procedures available. Among other things, the FACA sets forth procedures for announcing scheduled meetings, meeting attendance, and compiling and certifying minutes of meetings.

GAO found that in most instances the National Endowment for the Arts has provided the information requested under FOIA. However, administrative control of FOIA requests was not adequate. Responses were not always sent in accordance with FOIA timeliness requirements. In most instances when requested information was denied, the requestor was usually not advised of the appeal procedures available. Most of the panel meeting minutes did not meet FACA requirements for completeness and certification. In a number of instances, the National Endowment for the Humanities withheld information from requestors based on FOIA disclosure exemptions. Often, the requestor was not advised of the basis for the denial or the appeal procedures available in accordance with FOIA procedural requirements. FOIA records were inadequate to determine if timely responses were made. Most of the council and panel meeting minutes did not meet FACA requirements and certification. The General Services Administration has issued proposed procedures for implementing FACA. The procedures include: (1) public notice requirements; (2) public participation requirements; (3) requirements for closing meetings; and (4) requirements for minutes of meetings, including what information the minutes should contain.

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