VIII. COMPARISONS WITH PREVIOUS YEAR(S).
A. Comparison of numbers of requests received:
196,917 in FY01 vs. 235,042 in FY00, a 19.4% decrease
B. Comparison of number of requests processed:
194,612 in FY01 vs. 235,090 in FY00, a 20.8% decrease
C. Comparison of median numbers of days requests were pending as of end of fiscal year:
Varies by component.
D. Other statistics significant to components:
Requests for expedited processing: Antitrust received 1, granted 0; BOP received 127, granted 13; Civil Rights received 12, granted 11; Criminal received 24, granted 7; ENRD received 3, granted 0; FBI received 10, granted 7; INS received 722, granted 84; USNCB received 13, granted 1.
E. Other narrative statements describing component efforts to improve timeliness of FOIA performance and to make records available to the public (e.g., backlog-reduction efforts; specification of average number of hours per processed request; training activities; public availability of new categories of records):
Civil Rights Division
The Civil Rights Division's incoming requests increased by 7.7%. Costs, however, have been declining over the past 3-4 years. This reduction is due to a decrease in the number of contractors used to process FOIA requests.
DEA is currently in the process of implementing an electronic redaction program.
INS for the past three fiscal years has allocated funding for overtime for FOIA activities. Further, the National Record Center FOIA/PA office has expanded and it processed 30% of the cases reported closed this year. Also, our electronic processing tool (FIPS) was enhanced, which allowed the staff to process more expeditiously.
FOIA Fact Sheets, which explain the FOIA process and answer many of the frequently asked questions, were prepared and put on the COPS Web site. The COPS FOIA "Electronic Reading Room," displays a list of the grants that have been announced and the names of the grantees that have received the grants.
In order to improve overall records maintenance processes, OIPR is currently installing automated document management technology. Enhanced FOIA/PA request tracking and optical scanning capabilities should maximize efficiency and streamline FOIA/PA operations.
Responding to congressional and other investigative inquiries, and to an unprecedented number of FOIA requests (217% increase) resulted in a considerable expenditure of resources by the Office of the Pardon Attorney in FY01. During the fiscal year, the office received more than double the number of FOIA requests received in any single year previously, most of which were processed to completion within the 20-day statutory period.
OPR continues to emphasize two main areas to reduce its backlog. First, FOIA personnel focus on the processing of large complex requests to remove those requests from the FOIA/PA backlog. Second, there is continued emphasis placed on the processing of requests which need minimal processing. By placing an emphasis on these requests concurrently with complex requests, OPR attempts to prevent these requests from becoming part of the FOIA/PA backlog.
OPR's FOIA/PA backlog ended FY01 at a level that was consistent with that at the beginning of FY01. While the backlog increased during the second and third quarters, OPR was able to reduce the backlog by the end of the fourth quarter. During FY01, OPR hired a general paralegal who will be processing FOIA/PA requests on a part-time basis. OPR experienced an increase in the median number of days to process requests from 19 days in FY00 to 31 days in FY01. This increase is attributed to the increased demands of OPR mission-related activities on part-time FOIA staff. OPR addressed this issue by instituting procedures to expedite the final review process of less complex requests. However, OPR did reduce the median number of days for pending requests from 34 to 24 days.
The Tax Division's FOIA Unit's FY01 efforts resulted in a zero-backlog performance against a 23% increase in the number of requests from FY00.
The zero-backlog performance was made possible by continued use of new procedures adopted a year ago (computerized FOIA case-processing system, revised record retention practices, continued closer examination of incoming requests, enhanced working relations with other offices, tailored responses for especially complex requests, and continued experimentation with alternative processing techniques to speed response time, while increasing the responses' quality for all customers).
Ways to further improve median response time for complex requests have been explored. This exploration was prompted by an increase in median response time for complex requests from 12 days in the last reporting period to 21 days for this reporting period. One area still under consideration is the use of off-the-shelf FOIA redaction software in conjunction with production-level scanners.
The following efforts were made by the USPC to improve timeliness of FOIA performance: hiring of additional FOIA staff; reorganization of responsibilities for FOIA staff members; and participation in training programs.