Greasing the FOIA skids

GCN Insider: New software expedites Freedom of Information Act requests

Agencies that want to improve response times and control the costs of processing Freedom of Information Act requests are turning to new software tools for help. Privasoft, which makes case management software, reports 'a significant number' of government contracts for its AccessPro Suite, which it claims can reduce processing costs by 25 percent.

The tool automates many routine processes, provides case tracking, generates standard reports, applies fees and even manages the security of redacted
documents.

Among the new customers, the company said, are the Federal Reserve Board and the Agriculture Department's administration division and Food Safety and Inspection Service. In terms of response time to FOIA requests, these agencies already are doing well.

According to its FOIA annual report for 2006, the Federal Reserve Board was able to turn around the 324 simple FOIA requests it received last year in a median time of two days, while the median time for the 540 complex requests was 26 days. For some reason, the one request that was expedited took 72 days to process.

At USDA, the administrative division processed 56 FOIA requests, all rated simple, in a median time of 17 days. USDA's FSIS processed 325 simple requests in a median time of 29 days, and a single complex request took 133 days.

One agency that apparently could use some help in processing FOIA requests is the State Department. According to its 2006 report, it took a median time of 54 days to process 1,357 simple requests and 210 days to respond to 2,493 complex requests. And, once again, expediting a request doesn't seem to help much. The lone expedited request in 2006 took 231.5 days to process.

But things have improved at State. In 2002, the median time to process simple FOIA requests was 351 days and complex requests took more than a year, 431 days.

About the Author

William Jackson is freelance writer and the author of the CyberEye blog.

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