- Report Published -
|Study of Executive Agencies' Responses to Public Requests for Information Under the Freedom of Information Act|
|Secretary of Administration|
|SJR 290 (Regular Session, 1997)|
|First and foremost, thanks is due to the state agencies that participated in this study. Without their invaluable assistance, the analysis contained herein would not have been possible.|
In order to fulfill the requirements of SJR 290, all of the agencies of the Executive Branch were canvassed and asked to submit information pertaining to the FOIA requests that they received during calendar year 1997. For help in reviewing their files, agencies were reminded that a specific reference to the FOIA is not necessary in order to invoke the provisions of the Act. In an effort to provide the agencies with explicit guidance, we instructed them to exclude information pertaining to those requests that agencies handle as an integral part of the basic customer service that they provide; these types of requests would be ones that are attributable to the agency's direct duties and responsibilities as delineated in the Code of Virginia.
Our survey of the agencies focused on four principal issues: (1) the nature of the request; (2) the timeliness of fulfilling the request; (3) the cost and charge of the request; and (4) the circumstances surrounding any instances when requests were denied. Agencies were asked to answer a number of questions in each category. The resulting information provides insight both on individual requests and on the total number of requests fielded by agencies.
This report encompasses a review of 7,875 requests received by 56 different executive agencies. For those agencies that did not submit reports, we have operated under the assumption that they did not receive any requests that fell within the aforementioned guidelines. The one exception to this blanket observation is the Department of Corrections which indicated that their FOIA requests were catalogued in such a disparate number of files encompassing such a multitude of physical locations as to make it virtually impossible to comply with the study's requirements.
The data reported supports the conclusion that executive agencies are fulfilling requests properly and usually in the prescribed timeframe. Significantly, executive agencies recoup only a fraction of the cost that is necessary to honor the requests.