Freedom of Information Act:

Fee Waiver Practices at the FBI

GGD-87-73BR: Published: Jun 3, 1987. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) fee waiver practices at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to: (1) identify and describe the procedures and standards FBI used in making fee waiver decisions; and (2) provide information on the application of procedures and standards to specific fee waiver requests.

GAO reviewed fee waiver requests from January 1985 through September 1986 and found that, of 48 cases the FBI fee waiver committee considered, it denied waivers in 11 cases, partially reduced the fees in 31 cases, and granted full waivers in 6 cases. These actions reduced the $44,859 total estimated fees by $12,503. GAO also found that: (1) FBI used Department of Justice criteria for governmentwide guidance in evaluating the fee waiver requests; (2) the criteria pertained to the characteristics of the person or organization making the request as well as to the nature of the requested material; and (3) since the guidelines were general, the FBI committee was required to exercise individual discretion and judgment in applying them in specific fee waiver cases. GAO noted that Justice issued new FOIA fee waiver policy guidance in April 1987 to assist agencies in implementing legislation amending the act's fee waiver provision.

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