U.S. Agencies Create Joint Website for Requesters

1 October 2012

Six U.S. government agencies have created FOIAonline,  a website “that allows both the public and agency staff to make, monitor, and manage FOIA requests from a single website.”

“Requesters may choose to submit requests and file appeals by registering for an account,” according to the explanation on the cost-effectiveness features for the new site. “This will also allow requesters to track progress and communicate directly with agency staff. Prior to making a request, a searchable repository of records previously released may be reviewed to eliminate the need to make a new request.”

In addition, “Agency staff can move requests between organizations, review documents for potential withholding, generate invoices and make referrals and consultations quickly to other partner agencies. Agency management will be pleased with the time saved to prepare the Annual Report to the Department of Justice, a standard report in FOIAonline.”

The current partner agencies are: Departments of Commerce and Treasury, Environmental Protection Agency, National Archives and Records Administration, Merit System Protection Board and Federal Labor Relations Authority.

“The launch of FOIAonline represents a major advance in modernizing the FOIA system to deliver transparency more effectively and efficiently,” commented a government watchdog group called OMB Watch.

 Additional agencies may join FOIAonline in the future. “Earlier estimates put the cost to build the system at about $1.3 million, with annual operating costs of $500,000 to $750,000. Potential cost savings from utilizing the system, assuming every agency participated, were estimated at up to $200 million over five years,” OMB Watch said.

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