DC government commits to transparency with FOIA portal and open data policies

DC commits to transparency with FOIA portal and open data policies

Washington, D.C., took a big step this week on the road to government transparency. Mayor  Vincent Gray announced a new online system for submitting and processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to District government agencies. He also issued an executive order on transparency, open government and open data.

The new portal, powered by FOIAXpress, is the District’s first-ever citywide FOIA processing system. It manages the entire lifecycle of a FOIA request from initial request to final delivery of documents, including request management, correspondence management, document management, fee/payment management, document review and redaction as well as reporting. At its launch, more than 50 District agencies will be included in the new DC Government Public FOIA Portal, according to the mayor’s announcement. Additional agencies will be added to the system in the next fiscal year.

The FOIA portal will allow requesters to submit public records requests for any of the participating agencies to a centralized website. The requests will be assigned a unique tracking number, and users will be able to track the status of the request. The system will also permit the District to generate reports to determine whether agencies are meeting their FOIA obligations in a timely manner. Further, it will allow agencies to publish documents to an online reading room for information that is required to be made public under FOIA and the Mayor’s Open Government and Transparency Directive, including frequently requested information under FOIA.

The system chosen by the District is already in use by many federal agencies, including the General Services Administration and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

The mayor’s executive order requires that each District agency expand access to its information by making it proactively available online in a machine-readable, open format. It also establishes a District-wide Open Government Web Portal for agency open data activities.  Additionally, each agency will be required to develop and publish an annual Open Government Report describing how it has enhanced transparency, public participation and collaboration.

“This new online FOIA system is a key part of our strategy to improve government transparency and accountability,” said Mayor Gray. “In addition, the executive order I am issuing today sends an important message to District government agencies and the public: Everyone wins when we make it easier for the public to understand the workings of the District government.”

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