Is your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program in need of a check-up? Starting January 27, Federal agencies can participate in OGIS’s new FOIA self-assessment program.
OGIS is required to review agency compliance with FOIA under the statute. To help meet that mandate, we developed a robust agency assessment program in which our Compliance Team interviews agency personnel and reviews the agency’s regulations, annual FOIA reports, website, litigation, and FOIA request files to develop a full understanding of the FOIA office’s opportunities and challenges. At the end of the assessment, we release a report highlighting the agency’s best practices and making recommendations for improvement.
Our new self-assessment program is designed to complement, not replace, our agency assessment program. With 99 Federal departments and agencies processing FOIA requests, we are not able to assess individual programs as quickly as we would like. The self-assessment—an online survey—is designed to help agency FOIA programs identify areas for improvement and give FOIA leaders information they need to address issues and develop and launch strategies to strengthen and improve their FOIA programs.
The self-assessment program will not be used to grade or rank agency FOIA programs. OGIS will review agencies’ answers to the online questionnaire, which includes 27 questions, to identify trends government-wide. Director Holzer sent a letter to the Chief FOIA Officers at more than 60 agencies asking them to have the agency’s FOIA officers and/or supervisors complete the survey; the agencies Director Holzer contacted process more than 99.5 percent of all federal FOIA requests. Multiple offices and components can participate in the self-assessment survey.
The self-assessment survey will be open until March 11, 2016. We plan discuss the results of the self-assessment program during Sunshine Week 2017, and we look forward to seeing the results and sharing what we learn about any government-wide trends.