OGIS

Provided by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
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The FOIA Process

Making a FOIA Request

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Pre-determination communications

Pre-determination agency actions

Determinations

Releasing Records

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Administrative Appeals and/or OGIS

Litigation

Introduction

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is the federal FOIA ombudsman. It was created pursuant to the 2007 FOIA amendments.

Mediation

The statute charges OGIS with offering mediation services to resolve disputes between federal agencies and requesters as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation.[1] In 2010 the Office of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidance directing agencies to include information about the requester's right to seek dispute resolution services from OGIS in its final response to an administrative appeal.[2] The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 directs agencies to let requesters know about the ability of the agency's FOIA Public Liaison and OGIS to help resolve disputes in two instances: when the agency determines unusual circumstances exist and the agency will not be able to process the request within the statutory time limits;[3] and when the agency makes an adverse determination during initial processing.[4]

OGIS publishes quarterly performance metrics for its Mediation Program. These metrics include OGIS's ten oldest cases, number of cases open, closed and pending, and days pending for open cases.

How to contact OGIS for mediation

Requests to open a case to OGIS can be emailed to ogis@nara.gov, faxed to 202-741-5769, or mailed to Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. Requesters need to submit a Privacy Consent form to authorize the agency to discuss information about the FOIA request with OGIS unless the agency has published a FOIA/ Privacy Act System of Records Notice that includes a routine use for OGIS.

Compliance Reviews

The statute requires OGIS to review administrative agencies' FOIA policies and procedures and compliance and to identify procedures and methods for improving compliance.[5]

OGIS released its first agency FOIA compliance assessment in Fiscal Year 2014.[6] Copies of OGIS's agency FOIA compliance assessments are posted to the office's website.[7] OGIS posts an activities calendar prior to the start of a Fiscal Year announcing the FOIA programs it plans to assess during that period.

In January 2015, OGIS launched an agency FOIA compliance self-assessment survey pilot project. OGIS announced it would discuss the results of the pilot during Sunshine Week 2017.[8]

In April and May 2014, OGIS issued a series of compliance reports on the use of "still interested" letters to administratively close FOIA requests. Part 1 of the assessment examined the historical use of these letters by Cabinet-level agencies; Part 2 discusses the results of interviews with particular FOIA offices regarding their use of still interested letters; and Part 3 makes recommendations to improve the use of still interested letters.

Recommendations

An amendment to FOIA made by the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 directs OGIS to include legislative and regulatory recommendations, if any, to improve the administration of FOIA in an annual report that is required to be submitted to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the President.[9] The statute specifies that the Director of OGIS can submit any reports, recommendations, testimony or comments directly to Congress if the submission includes a statement indicating that the views expressed therein are those of the Director and do not necessarily represent the views of the President. [10]

Prior to the passage of the FOIA Improvement Act, OGIS recommended 11 actions aimed at improving the FOIA process, including seven actions specific to OGIS.[11]

Advisory Opinions

The statute specifies OGIS may issue advisory opinions at the discretion of the Office or upon request of any party to a dispute.[12]

See Also

External Links

References

  1. 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(3)
  2. https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/foia-post-2010-oip-guidance-notifying-requesters-mediation-services-offered-ogis
  3. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B)(ii)
  4. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i)(III)(bb)
  5. 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(2)
  6. https://ogis.archives.gov/Assets/Reports/ogis-report-march-2015.pdf?method=1
  7. https://ogis.archives.gov/foia-compliance-program/agency-compliance-reports.htm
  8. https://foia.blogs.archives.gov/2016/01/27/ogis-releases-foia-compliance-self-assessment-program/
  9. 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(4)(A)
  10. 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(4)(C)
  11. https://ogis.archives.gov/Assets/FY+2015+Annual+Report.pdf?method=1
  12. 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(3)