Since January 2013, in accordance with Office of Information Policy (OIP) guidance, agencies have been reporting quarterly on four key FOIA statistics to the Department of Justice by making this information available on FOIA.gov. Quarterly reporting allows the Department of Justice, as well as the public and agencies alike, to identify trends and assess agencies’ progress throughout the course of the fiscal year. Quarterly reporting also helps increase accountability and enhance public awareness of agencies’ efforts in administering the FOIA.
Today, OIP provides this updated guidance on how agencies should fulfill their quarterly reporting requirements by entering the data directly into FOIA.gov using their Agency Manager accounts. This new method provides a much more straightforward and less resource intensive process for reporting quarterly FOIA statistics to the public.
Key FOIA Statistics
In accordance with OIP’s earlier quarterly reporting guidance, the statistics that agencies report remain the same. Agencies’ FOIA quarterly reports focus on four key statistics:
- the number of requests received during the reporting period,
- the number of requests processed during the reporting period,
- the number of requests in an agency’s backlog at the end of the reporting period, and
- the progress being made to close the agency’s ten overall oldest pending FOIA requests from the prior fiscal year.
Agencies that are decentralized in their FOIA processing provide the data for the first three statistics for each of their individual components. These metrics, broken down by component, give a snapshot each quarter of how processing is proceeding throughout the fiscal year. As to the fourth statistic, in keeping with the longstanding focus on reducing the age of the oldest pending requests, this metric requires agencies to report on how many of their agency’s ten overall oldest pending FOIA requests from the prior fiscal year have been closed. The goal for each agency is to be able to report that all ten of their oldest pending requests from the prior fiscal year have been closed.
New Process for Reporting
The Department has developed new functionality on FOIA.gov so that agencies can more easily create their quarterly reports. Each agency has an Agency Manager accountholder who can log into FOIA.gov. Agency managers are responsible for keeping the agency’s information updated and submitting their agency’s Annual FOIA Report data to OIP. Agencies are now required to use these accounts to input their quarterly report data directly into FOIA.gov.
Attached to this guidance are step-by-step screenshots to supplement the instructions below for completing a quarterly report in FOIA.gov. To report for a given quarter, Agency Managers should log into FOIA.gov and select "Create Quarterly FOIA Report Data." The report template contains four tabs. First, the “Agency Info” tab asks users to enter the appropriate agency name. Agencies must type out the full agency name, rather than entering the agency abbreviation. Next, agencies must check the abbreviation checkboxes for the agency or components being reported. Finally, agencies must enter the specific fiscal year and quarter for which data is being provided. For example, for the first report covering the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2021, users should enter “2021” in the first field and select “Q4” in the second field.
The next tab, “Agency Data,” is where agencies enter information about their Ten Oldest Requests. This section addresses agencies' progress in closing their ten oldest pending perfected requests from the prior fiscal year, which for the first report is Fiscal Year 2020. An agency should enter “10” in the first field on this tab if it had 10 or more perfected requests pending at the end of the previous fiscal year according to Section VII.E of its Annual FOIA Report. If an agency had less than 10 pending perfected requests, the user should select the exact number of requests that were pending. Thus, for all four quarters of Fiscal Year 2021, agencies may look to the number of requests listed in the agency overall line of Section VII.E in their Fiscal Year 2020 Annual FOIA Report to identify the correct number to select.
Agencies then enter the number of those oldest pending perfected requests from the prior fiscal year that have been closed as of the end of the reporting period. Please note that this metric requires users to select the cumulative number of the ten oldest requests closed by the end of each reporting period. For example, if an agency had nine perfected FOIA requests pending at the end of Fiscal Year 2012, and it closed four of those requests during the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021, it would select “9” (for the number pending as of the end of Fiscal Year 2020) and “4,” (for the number of those requests closed in Fiscal Year 2021) for the questions regarding the ten oldest in the first reporting quarter. If the agency then closed the remaining five requests in the second quarter, it would select “9” (for the number pending) and “9” (for the number closed) in the second quarter.
The next tab, “Component Data,” is where decentralized agencies enter component-specific data, or, if the agency is centralized, data for the agency overall. Agencies should click the "Add placeholders for component data below" button. This will add data fields for each component that was selected on the “Agency Info” tab. Agencies must then add the data for each of the component fields indicating the number of FOIA requests they received and processed during the reporting quarter, as well as the number of FOIA requests that were backlogged as of the end of the reporting quarter. Requests should be reported as “backlogged” for purposes of the Annual FOIA Report and for this quarterly reporting if they are pending beyond the statutory time period for response, which is twenty working days, or if unusual circumstances are invoked, up to thirty working days, after receipt. Agencies with decentralized FOIA processing will need to report by component, consistent with the way this data is provided for the Annual FOIA Reports. Once all component data is entered, the “Agency Overall” tab will contain auto-summed totals for the entire agency.
When an agency is ready to finalize its quarterly report, the Agency Manager should update the status from "Draft" to "Submitted to OIP." Finally, save the report. The Department will publish all agencies’ quarterly data once the quarterly reporting deadline has passed.
Please note, agencies are no longer required to post a.zip file containing the quarterly report data on their websites for ingestion into FOIA.gov. Agencies may download a word document containing the Quarterly Report Data by clicking the "Generate docx" tab on the edit and view pages.
Prior to creating your agency’s quarterly report, please confirm that your agency has entered all of the necessary information into its tracking database to ensure that the data used for the quarterly report accurately represents your agency’s work during the reporting period. OIP will not review agencies’ quarterly data prior to posting, and each agency is responsible for the accuracy of its own data.
Quarterly Reporting Deadlines
For Quarter 4 of Fiscal Year 2021, each agency must post its completed Quarterly Report through their FOIA.gov accounts by no later than October 29, 2021. Agencies will be required to post these Reports by no later than the last Friday of the month which follows the end of a quarter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I update my agency's Quarterly Report data once it has been "Submitted to OIP?"
Yes. Notify OIP of the correction you wish to make. OIP will make the correction and ensure that the updated data appears on FOIA.gov. However, please make every effort to verify your data before entering it into FOIA.gov.
What happens if my agency misses the Quarterly Report deadline?
The Agency Manager should enter the data into FOIA.gov as soon as possible and notify OIP so that we may publish the data to the public quarterly report page.
Where can the public view the quarterly data?
The public will be able to view the quarterly data on http://www.foia.gov/quarterly.html.
Quarterly reporting helps the public to regularly track government FOIA administration and helps agencies to more easily identify trends that will help improve their FOIA operations. The new functionality on FOIA.gov will make agencies’ posting process more efficient. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact OIP’s Compliance Team at DOJ.OIP.FOIA@usdoj.gov.
Attachment: Quarterly Report Step-by-Step Instructions