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(Washington, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray today announced the launch of a new online system for submitting and processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to District government agencies. The new portal, powered by industry leader “FOIAXpress,” is the District’s first-ever citywide FOIA processing system. At its launch, more than 50 District agencies will be included. Additional agencies will be added to the system in the next fiscal year. Mayor Gray also issued an executive order that mandates that the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) hire a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to assist in the deployment and to help coordinate additional open data programming.
The new DC Government Public FOIA Portal will allow requesters to submit public records requests for any of the participating agencies to a centralized website. The requests will be assigned a unique tracking number, and users will be able to track the status of the request. The system will also permit the District to generate reports to determine whether agencies are meeting their FOIA obligations in a timely manner. Further, it will allow agencies to publish documents to an online reading room for information that is required to be made public under FOIA and the Mayor’s Open Government and Transparency Directive, including frequently requested information under FOIA.
The District procured the new system following numerous District agency inquiries. The system was chosen as a result of its effective use by many federal agencies, including the General Services Administration and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, and in consultation with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability’s Office of Open Government.
The Mayor’s executive order requires that agencies proactively publish up to 15 different categories of government information online and establishes a single Web portal for gaining access to that information. The order also requires agencies to report on compliance with the order and necessitates each District board and commission develop a plan to ensure that their meetings are webcast. In response to comments received from the public and interested stakeholders, the order also establishes an Open Data Policy for the District. The Open Data Policy requires the designation of a CDO and that the District’s data be published in an open format that is capable of being downloaded, searched and retrieved by common web applications.
“This new online FOIA system is a key part of our strategy to improve government transparency and accountability,” said Mayor Gray. “In addition, the executive order I am issuing today sends an important message to District government agencies and the public: Everyone wins when we make it easier for the public to understand the workings of the District government. I also look forward to seeing the exciting applications I hope the District’s technology community will develop with the government data we will be putting online.”
Additional information for how FOIA requests may now be submitted online at can be found at open.dc.gov and foia.dc.gov.