Government Field Offices Should Better Implement the Freedom of Information Act

Gao ID: LCD-78-120 July 25, 1978

The Freedom of Information Act provides the basic authority and procedure for the public to obtain documents and records from the Federal Government.

The act has given citizens access to records not previously available. Although it is being used mostly by businesses and law firms for purposes not contemplated by the Congress, any attempt to regulate such use could also restrict use by the public. Most agencies are making a reasonable effort to meet the act's time requirements for responding to requests, but a few agencies have not responded within the 10-day time limit. Agencies should evaluate each step of the process and consider establishing time limits for each step. Agencies are not abusing fee provisions of the act. On the contrary, there is a reluctance to assess fees, and clarification is needed in this area. One problem area is in applying exemptions from disclosure listed in the act. Agencies differed in denials of requests and in determining what constituted a denial. Additional training on the act is needed in some agency field offices with variations among agencies in amount and type of training needed. Improvement is also needed in support by agency management of programs for providing public access to government records and in the quality of agency reports on implementation of the act.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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