This is cross-posted from The FOIA Ombudsman
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is pleased to announce the publication of our latest report, “Assessing Freedom of Information Act Compliance through the National Archives and Records Administration’s 2021 Records Management Self-Assessment.”
The latest Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA) shows that the COVID-19 pandemic remained a challenge for agencies in 2021, and that top agency FOIA and records management officers are increasingly working together.
The 2021 RMSA was administered by our colleagues in the Office of the Chief Records Officer (CRO) for the U.S. Government to agency records officers earlier this year and included four questions regarding FOIA administration. Key results highlighted in our report include:
- Over half of all respondents (51 percent) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic did not disrupt their agency’s ability to respond to FOIA requests. Forty-five percent of agencies reported a disruption to their ability to respond to FOIA requests. A majority of respondents (78 percent) whose FOIA programs were disrupted reported that their agency’s paper records were inaccessible due to office closures while just over half (51 percent) reported that agency staff were not available to search for records.
- A majority of respondents (73 percent) reported that their agencies worked directly with requesters to tailor their requests for most efficient processing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty-five percent said that they included information about anticipated delays in requester communications, including acknowledgement letters; 54 percent assessed their technology to ensure the most efficient administration of FOIA; and 51 percent reported that their agencies posted notices on their FOIA websites informing requesters of the most efficient ways to make requests.
- A majority of respondents (56 percent) reported that the Agency Records Officer and the Chief FOIA Officer work together on information technology (IT) requirements that benefit both programs, which is 5 percentage points higher than the previous year’s 51 percent. Additionally, exactly 50 percent reported this year that they work together to identify programs or offices most likely to have responsive records, a 6-percentage point increase over the previous year.
The National Archives administered the self-assessment between January 10, 2022 and March 11, 2022.
The success of an agency’s FOIA program depends, in significant part, on the strength of its records management program. Records that are well-managed help those who are searching for records in response to FOIA requests.
OGIS works in partnership with the CRO to include FOIA questions in the annual RMSA. This provides OGIS insight to FOIA administration across the federal government and aids with agency compliance.