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Based on principles of openness and accountability in government, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes that federal agencies must provide the public with access to government information, thus enabling them to learn about government operations and decisions. To ensure appropriate implementation of FOIA, Congress requires that agencies report annually to the Attorney General information about agencies' FOIA operations. GAO has recently reported twice on the annual FOIA reports of 25 agencies. In 2001, GAO reported that data-quality issues limited the usefulness of agencies' annual reports. In 2002, GAO reported that fewer agency FOIA reports had data-quality and consistency problems in fiscal year 2001 compared with fiscal year 2000, although some fiscal year 2001 reports did have data anomalies. GAO was asked, among other things, to determine (1) trends of reported FOIA implementation between 2000 and 2002 and (2) progress the 25 agencies have made addressing reporting inconsistencies and data-quality problems in annual FOIA reports.

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