Agencies Should Cooperate with Freedom of Information Ombudsman, Administrative Conference Says

Federal agencies should do more to cooperate with the government's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman, according to recommendations approved June 5 by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). The recommendations also called for the ombudsman, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), to continue efforts to assist people who make FOIA requests. The recommendation is a positive step for helping people access public information under FOIA.

Created by the OPEN Government Act of 2007, OGIS serves two functions in the FOIA system. First, OGIS works to assist individuals with their FOIA requests, including offering non-binding mediation to resolve disputes about an agency's decision. In addition, OGIS reviews agencies' FOIA performance and compliance, a role that OGIS has so far only done in a limited fashion but is poised to expand.

In developing the recommendations, ACUS studied OGIS's dispute resolution and request facilitation work. ACUS generally backed the approach that OGIS has taken to date but also called for OGIS to consider issuing advisory opinions – a power granted to the office by the law, but which OGIS has yet to exercise. Such opinions could be a useful way to call attention to FOIA issues and steer agencies toward improved performance. Continue>>>