At its final Best Practices Workshop for this summer, OIP previewed its new FOIA Self-Assessment Toolkit as a resource for agencies to use when assessing their administration of the FOIA. OIP has encouraged agencies to conduct self-assessments to review and improve their FOIA program. In their Chief FOIA Officer Reports, many agencies reported conducting self-assessments using methods such as reviewing their workflows and Annual FOIA Report data. By examining their procedures, practices, and results, agencies can improve their FOIA administration by, for instance, streamlining request processing, identifying new ways to use technology, and increasing proactive disclosures.
The FOIA Self-Assessment Toolkit consists of 13 modules, each focusing on a distinct aspect of the FOIA process, such as Initial Mail Intake, Adjudicating Requests for Expedited Processing, Searching for Responsive Records, Requester Services, FOIA Reporting, and FOIA Websites. Each module contains various milestones to help agencies evaluate their FOIA program and identify areas for improvement. At the end of each module, OIP offers best practices and guidance covering the topic.
Agencies may complete some or all of the modules, depending on the purposes and goals of their assessment. Agencies may self-assess to identify any areas for improvement or to evaluate the effectiveness of recent organizational or procedural changes.
The Toolkit uses an evidence-based approach to help agencies objectively and meaningfully evaluate their performance. Scoring based on available evidence helps agencies more easily identify gaps and track progress when implementing improvements. Agencies may look to, for example, internal policies, Annual FOIA Report data, training materials, staff questionnaires, and public feedback as evidence in response to each of the milestones.
When agencies conduct a self-assessment using the Toolkit, they will assess their performance on each milestone on a scale of 1-4, with 1 indicating that the agency is not meeting the milestone and/or there are major obstacles to progress, while 4 indicates that the agency meets the milestone and has strong evidence of success. For any score below 4, agencies should review the milestone and subsequent guidance to identify areas for improvement or develop new practices in that area.
OIP encourages agencies to use the Toolkit to assist them in examining their FOIA program. We welcome feedback on how to make it more useful. OIP plans to add modules and/or milestones over time as agencies use the Toolkit and provide feedback. By continuing to self-assess and implement improvements, agencies can further refine their administration of the FOIA.