Watchdogs give multi-agency FOIA portal a thumbs up

Module could save $200 million over five years if adopted governmentwide.

A cross-agency Freedom of Information Act request portal that launched Monday has been getting positive reviews so far from transparency groups.

Sunshine in Government called the new system, which accepts, tracks and processes FOIA requests for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commerce Department and the National Archives and Records Administration, “elegant and a big step forward.” OMB Watch said the site “could improve timeliness and reduce backlogs.”

FOIA Online was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and uses similar technology to, on which EPA also took the lead.

Some analyses have shown the module could save more than $200 million over a five-year period if adopted governmentwide. Constructing the system cost about $1.3 million.

The module will provide an online record of FOIA requests to participating agencies and, in the majority of cases, agencies will post any responsive documents to the system as well so future requesters don’t have to go after the same thing.

The Treasury Department plans to join the system in 2013, according to a Fierce Government IT report, and other agencies might follow.