oversight

Final Report on the Review of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act

Published by the Office of Personnel Management, Office of Inspector General on 2015-03-23.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          UNITED STATES OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT 

                                                 Washington, DC 20415 


    Office of the
· Inspector General                             March 23, 2015


       MEMORANDUM FOR KATHERINE ARCHULETA
                      Director

       FROM:                     PATRICK E. McFARLAND
                                 Inspector General

       SUBJECT:                  Final Report on the Review of the U.S. Office of Personnel
                                 Management's Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act
                                 (Report No. 4K-RS-00-14-076)

       This final memorandum report communicates the results of our review of the U.S. Office of
       Personnel Management's compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Our review
       was performed from September 2014 through November 2014. The review identified one area
       requiring improvement.

       We issued our draft memorandum report to                       Associate Chief Information
       Officer, on November 21, 2014. The Associate Chieflnformation Officer's comments on the
       draft memorandum report were considered in preparing this final memorandum report and are
       included as an Appendix. For specific detai ls of the review fmdings, please refer to the
       "Results" section of this memorandum.

       This memorandum has been issued by the 010 to OPM officials for resolution of the findings
       and recommendations contained herein. As part of this process, OPM may release the
       memorandum to authorized representatives of the audited party. Further release outside of OPM
       requires the advance approval ofthe OIG. Under section 8L of the Inspector General Act, the
       OIG makes redacted versions of its final reports available to the public on its webpage.

       In accordance with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-50 and Public .Law
       103-355, all audit findings must be resolved (agreement reached on actions to be taken on
       reported findings and recommendations; or, in the event of disagreement, determination by the
       agency follow-up official that the matter is resolved) within six months of the date of this report.
       The OMB circular also requires that agency management officials provide a timely response to
       the final audit report indicating whether they agree or disagree with the audit findings and
       recommendations. Where management is in agreement, the response should include planned
       corrective actions and target dates for achieving them. If management disagrees, the response
       must include the basis in fact, law or regulation for the disagreement.




         www.opm .g ov                                                                          www.us ajobs.gov
Honorable Katherine Archuleta                                                              2

Background

The FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552, is the federal freedom ofinfonnation law that allows for the
full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased infonnation and documents controlled
by the U.S. Government. FOIA defines agency records subject to disclosure and
outlines mandatory disclosure procedures.

OPM's FOIA Office within OPM' s Office of the Chieflnformation Officer (OCIO) is
responsible for oversight of the processing of Freedom of Information Act requested
information. OPM' s FOIA Office serves as the focal point for the intake and
dissemination of FOIA requests to the appropriate OPM program office, and ensures
that OPM program offices are compliant with FOIA guidelines, policies, and
procedures.

OPM' s FOIA Office has implemented a tracking system to keep track of incoming
requests. The system provides a tracking number for each new FOIA request, tracks the
processing of each request, alerts record owners of requests for records, and conducts
other useful search functions. OPM also uses email to correspond with and receive
correspondence from FOIA requesters. OPM's FOIA Office has developed a policy
and flow chart for the processing of FOIA requests.

In addition, OPM' s FOIA Office maintains a telephone hotline with two call lines,
which allows requesters to obtain status information on their FOil\ requests as well as
seek answers to a variety of questions, including OPM FOIA processing and policy
questions.

O b jective

The objective of our review was to determine whether FOIA requests were processed in
compliance with OPM's FOIA policies.

Scope and Meth odology

The scope of our review covered the processing ofFOIA requests during FY 2014 and
OPM' s FOIA Office policies and procedures as of September 19, 2014.

In planning and conducting our review, we obtained an understanding of the FOIA
request process through reviews of documentation and interviews with representatives
from OPM's FOIA Office and the OCIO.

Our review was not conducted in accordance with government auditing standards
(GAS) as established by the Comptroller General of the United States. However, the
nature and scope ofthe work performed was consistent with that expected of a GAS
Honorable Katherine Archuleta                                                                        3

audit. Since we consider this a review, the planning, documentation, reporting and
quality control standards are not as stringent as in a GAS audit.

To accomplish the objective noted above, we:

   • 	 verified that FOIA information requests complied with the Electronic Freedom 

       of Information Act amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA); 

   • 	 examined FOIA infonnation requests received by telephone; and
   • 	 evaluated the processing of FOIA information requests.

This review was limited to OPM's FOIA request process and was not a review of the
program.

Results

Our analysis determined that OPM's FOIA Office has made great strides in recent years
in documenting and tracking FOIA requests in a timely manner. However, we also
found one area that provides an opportunity for improvement.

Co mpliance with the E lectronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996

OPM's FOIA Office has a documented policy and flow chart for tracking and providing
requested FOIA information. However, this policy does not discuss the requirement to post
FOIA information online that has been requested multiple times (three or more requests). In
addition, OPM's request tracking system does not identify the type of information requested.
Consequently, OPM's FOIA Office cannot identify multiple requests that should be posted.

The Electronic Freedom oflnformation Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA) require that
agencies provide online reading rooms for citizens to access records and, in the instance of three
or more requests for certain FOJA information, that this information be posted in these rooms.

OPM's website has a reading room that OPM's FOIA Office can use to post responses to
multiple requests; however, we found that the reading room is not used. OPM's FOJA Office
officials stated that they take a proactive approach to posting information that they feel will be
requested frequently, but we could not locate any such information.

Recommendat ion 1

We recommend that OPM's FOIA Office document a formaJ policy for handling multiple
requests of the same information.
Honorable Katherine Archuleta                                                                      4

OPM's FOIA Office Response:

"We agree. The determination that there have been multiple requests for the same information is
done manually. Policy will be developed once a tool is available."

Recommendation 2

We recommend that OPM's FOIA Office either utilize the existing reading room on the FOIA
website and post information requested muJtiple times, or set up a new reading room online
which is easily accessible to the public in accordance with E-FOIA.

OPM's FOIA Office Response:

"We agree. Putting records out on the reading room or on program office websites is ardently
being promoted. We fully intend to use the existing reading room to place frequently requested
records and information of public interest on the electronic reading room site. Since the FOIA
program is not the originators of the records, we can only strongly encourage program offices to
put frequently requested records or records that would be of public interest out on line.
Promoting FOIA responses to be disclosed to the general public is still a ' work in progress."'

Furthermore, OPM's FOIA Office provided links to OPM web sites where program offices
placed requested information and information of public interest for FY 2014.

OIG Reply:

Although OPM's FOIA Office agrees with this recommendation and intends to use the existing
reading room, they indicate that it is up to the program offices to post frequently requested
information. We feel that OPM's FOIA Office needs to take the lead in ensuring that program
offices post information through not only encouragement but oversight as well.

Recommendation 3

We recommend that OPM's FOl A Office start tracking types ofFOIA requests to help determine
whether they are multiple requests that must be posted to the reading room.

OPM's FOIA Office Response:

"We agree. Subject to appropriations, we will seek funding through IRB for an automated
process in 2017."
Honorable Katherine Archuleta                                                                   5


Please contact me on 606-1200 if you have any questions regarding this final report, or your staff
may wish to contact Michael R. Esser, Assistant Inspector General for Audits, on -          or
               Lead Auditor, Quality Assurance Group, on -           ·

cc: Ann Marie Habershaw
    Chief of Staff

   Donna K. Seymour 

   Chief Information Officer 


   Mark W. Lambert
   Associate Director, Merit System Audit and Compliance


                      Oversight and Compliance


   Associate Chief Information Officer
                                                                                                           Appeadix


                         UNITED STATES OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT 

                                                     Washington, DC 20415 


Chief Infomuulon
     Ofticer

    MEMORANDUM

   Date:           December 5, 2014
   From:                        ACIO
   To:
   Subject: 	      Responses to the Draft Report for the Review of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's
                   Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (Report No. 4K-RS-00-14.076)

   Recommendation 1 

   We recommend that OPM's FOIA Office document a formal policy for handling multiple requests. 


   Response: 

   We agree. The determination that there have been multiple requests for the same information Is done manually. 

   Policy will be developed once a tool is available. See response to Recommendation #3. At every opportunity, we 

   have promoted Open Government and transparency using proactive disclosures to provide information to the 

   public. A listing of FOIA activities promoting FOIA proactive disclosures within OPM are as follows: 


    10/13- Overview ofthe Annual Report and Mention of Proactive/Discretionary Disclosures 

    3/14- Proactive Disclosur e Responses and Needs Referred to in the 2014 Chief FOIA Officer's Report 

    4/9-10/14 - OPM FOIA Training Program - DOJ Mentions Need for Proactive Disclosures 

    6/5/14 • FOIA Council Meeting, Notification and Slides · Need for Proactive Disclosures 

    7/17/14 • FOIA Council Meeting, Notification and Slides· Need for Proactive Disclosures 

    8/13/14 • FOIA Council Meeting, Notification and Slides- Emphasis on Proactive Disclosures 

    8/21/14- FOIA Council Meeting, Notification and Slides - Need for Proactive Disclosures 

    9/4/14 • End of the Year Reporting Email Notification 

    9/30/14- Second En·d of the Year Reporting Email Notification 

    5. Meetings Between OGC, FOIA and program offices to discuss strategies on placing frequently requested items
    or items of public interest to be put out on the web.

   Recommendation 2
   We recommend that OPM's FOIA Office either utilize the exlstinc reading room on the FOIA website and post
   Information requested multiple times or set up a new reading room online with requested Information posted
   which Is easily accessible to the public In accordance with E-FOIA.
   Response:      .                                         ·
   We agree. Putting records out on the reading room or on program office websites Is ardently being promoted.
   We fully Intend to use the existing reading room to place frequently requested records and information of public
   interest on the electronic reading room site. Since the FOIA program Is not the originators of the records, we can
   only strongly encourage program offices to put frequently req ue.sted records or records that would be of public
   Interest out on line. Promoting FOIA responses to be disclosed to the general public is still a "work in progress."
   Program offices have proactively placed requested information and information of public in terest on their own
   OPM web sites for FY 2014, as follows:

   OPM's Strategic Plan outlines the steps required to achieve agency goals (http:Uwww.opm.gov/about-us/budget­
   performance/strategic-plans/201Q-2015-strategic-plan.pd0.


                          Recruit, R.ct.aln and Honor a Wodd-Cius Workforce to Serve the Amt:ricm People
       OPM's annual Congressional Budget Justification shows how it plans to use the budgetary resources allocated by
       Congress to achieve Its mission (http://www.opm.gov/@bout-us/budget­
       perfonnance/budgets/#uri=Congressignai-Budget-Justification).

       OPM's Agency Financial Report (AFR) provides an overview of financial performance and results to help the 

       President, Congress, and the public assess our stewardship over the financial resources entrusted to us 

       (http://www.opm.gov/about-us/budget-performance/performance/2012-agency-financi~l-report . pdf) .


       OPM's Annual Performance Report (APR) provides information on actual perfonnance and ·progress towards 

       achieving the goals and the Strategic Plan and performance budget (http:Uwww.opm.gov/about-us/budget· 

       perfonnance/ performance/2012-annual-report.pdf). 


       OPM's Summa'r y of Performance and Financial Information (SPFI) provides key information from both the AFR and
     · APR in a brief with user-friendly format http://www.opm.gov/about-us/budget-performance/performance/2012­
       summary.pdf).

       Recommendation 3· 

       We recommend that OPM's FOIA Office formally start tracking the type of request and determine if 

       information has been requested three or more times and post this Information. 


       Response:
       We agree. Subject to appropriations, we will seek funding through IRB for an automated process In 2017. ,:
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