Case StudyBringing New Efficiencies to Processing Freedom of Information Act Requests
When the client needed an effective means of managing FOIA requests it turned to SSI, who provided a solution that reduced the time to “close a case” by 75% and reduced the FOIA request backlog by 66%.
SSI’s client had a large but unquantified backlog of FOIA requests and an average fulfillment time of 80 days per request. Faced with scaling a manual, human, paper-driven process, the client turned to SSI for expansion of its workflow management platform to receive, track, and fulfill FOIA requests.
The solution needed to meet a core set of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements for managing FOIA requests and needed to support 12 distributed offices, each with its own unique business rules. The project also needed to be completed on budget and within a 16-week timeframe.
SSI first reviewed OMB reporting requirements and business processes with the client’s leadership. Then, SSI’s FOIA process experts and architects focused on implementing a simple and intuitive solution to manage work processes while capturing the complex data necessary to generate annual reports.
The resulting solution supported all aspects of the FOIA process, including: redaction, exemption tracking, letter generation, fee tracking, invoice generation, and appeals tracking. At every point in the process, events were automatically captured to enable accurate reporting and ease of use. Solution training was conducted both in the classroom and online.
The solution enabled the client to discover that the backlog of FOIA requests was just over 10,000. This awareness allowed leadership to prioritize resources to reduce the backlog in accordance with White House and departmental policies for Open Government.
Additionally, the process was now electronic rather than paper-based, less prone to human error, reportable, and visible. These qualities made it easier to change or improve the workflow globally via software, rather than through interdepartmental coordination and policy mandate.
The solution reduced the average time required to close a case to fewer than 20 days and has enabled the agency to reduce its backlog from 10,000 to 3,000—a 66% reduction. The client also:
- Reduced its subsequent year pending FOIA initial requests by 49% compared to the prior year
- Processed 91% of the year’s FOIA initial requests, even as it received 14,000 more requests that year (compared to previous year)
- Processed 89% of end-of-FY total pending FOIA initial requests
- Reduced end-of-year total pending FOIA appeals by 79% compared to prior year
SSI’s success with this client led to expanded FOIA work within the agency. Today, SSI’s FOIA solution handles 70% of all the FOIA requests that come to HHS, enabling the entire department to operate more effectively and efficiently, with full compliance.