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How ArkCase Helps Agencies Improve FOIA Requests Processing

by | Apr 2, 2018 | FOIA Software Solutions | 0 comments

how ArkCase helps agencies improve FOIA requests processing

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) also referred to as Release of Information (ROI) allows citizens access to undisclosed information that is managed by the government. As more citizens have become aware of their right this has led to a significantly increased number of FOIA requests. Per FOIAProject.org, Office of Personnel Management and Office of the Director of National Intelligence percentage of annual FOIA growth was 160.7% and 75.1%, respectfully in FY2011.

For agencies, the continually growing workload is a challenge. Manual processing and antiquated FOIA solutions are time-consuming and lead to frustration of both citizens and agencies. Even agencies that use new technology find it difficult to process FOIA requests because legislation is in a constant flux.

If your agency is dealing with FOIA requests, you are undoubtedly under pressure by the time and efforts needed to meet the increased demand for declassified information.

But, don’t worry. We have a solution for you!

Armedia’s collaboration with ArkCase, Alfresco, AWS, and Ephesoft has resulted in ArkCase FOIA which is available as a FedRAMP Moderate cloud offering.

ArkCase FOIA is designed to help your agency automate, analyze, manage and rapidly respond to FOIA requests.

Why is the Armedia FOIA Solution Unique?

what makes Armedia FOIA module unique

We’ve approached each FOIA Request as a standalone case, a collection of related information. We leave the Case Management in the capable hands of ArkCase and built an FOIA Module that seamlessly integrates with ArkCase.

This way, requests are automatically captured, sent for processing to the appropriate queue and the status of the FOIA request is automatically updated as it moves through the case management process.

ArkCase FOIA significantly simplifies request processing and helps you save time and improve requester experience while delivering a full range of functionality:

  • Properly manage and route each FOIA request
  • Improve Communication with Requesters
  • Apply Presumption of Records
  • Prevent Record Destruction
  • Online Appeal Submission
  • Automatic Status Updates
  • Report and Analyze data
  • Track Billing
  • Electronically Deliver Response

1. Properly manage and route each FOIA request

Often the appropriate department cannot determine the status of the records within the determined period resulting in the inability to answer the FOIA request within that period. In these cases, employees can send a status update to the citizen at any step of the way.

Citizens whose FOIA request has been denied can further use ArkCase FOIA to submit an Appeal. ArkCase FOIA will attach the Appeal to the existing FOIA Request in the system and will notify the parties involved in the latest update.

ArkCase FOIA also provides a simple way to deal with misdirected requests. The system maintains the misdirected FOIA requests and supports the ability for the request to be referred to another agency or department. Alternatively, the requester has the opportunity to narrow the scope of the request and asks for approval to continue the process.

2. Improve Communication with Requesters

Since the whole point of the FOIA Act is to keep the citizens informed, a system that allows two-way communication is crucial.

Whenever the agency is in need of additional information, ArkCase FOIA allows them to request extra input. The system allows the agency to quickly email the FOIA requester for clarification or additional information.

This works the other way around also. The Armedia FOIA Module allows you to communicate with the requester and provide them with information about the status of their request.

In some cases, there might be a need for an extension of the determined period. In that case, the system allows you to notify the requester of the extension.

Finally, when an FOIA request is granted or denied, the system notifies the requester of the final decision.

3. Apply Presumption of Records

apply presumption of records with Armedia FOIA Module

With the Armedia FOIA Module, you do not have to worry about the presumption of disclosure.

Our platform applies the FOIA’s presumption in favor of disclosure ensuring that no information is withheld unnecessarily. An exception to this default setting is of course, in cases where:

  1. Disclosure might harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions.
  2. The law prohibits disclosure.

The Office of Information Policy and the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) recommend that agencies conduct rolling releases of records, (also known as “interim releases”) whenever possible.

Releasing records as they are processed rather than waiting to complete processing of the complete request decreases the timeliness of disclosure. That is why the Armedia FOIA Module allows for proactive releases of records on a rolling basis.

4. Prevent Record Destruction

Disclosure of records cannot happen if records are destroyed. For that reason, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) have issued a schedule for the length of time agencies must maintain records related to FOIA request.

The Armedia FOIA Module helps your agency maintain records according to these schedules. In addition, it also maintains all correspondence related to FOIA requests according to the NARA’s schedules.

5. Online Submission of FOIA Requests

submit your FOIA requests online

When managing large volumes of FOIA requests, the submission and documentation of FOIA requests are one of the largest problems.

The Armedia FOIA Module moves beyond paper-based submission and disjointed digital databases stored in multiple locations. All online submissions are stored using compliant technologies for data storage, and you can choose a centralized access control location.

From the moment the FOIA request is received, the Armedia FOIA Module establishes a multi-track system used in case management workflows. This feature allows your agency to determine the exact amount of time and work needed for processing the FOIA request.

Thanks to the multi-track system provided by ArkCase, your agency can easily distinguish simple and complex FOIA requests. The notifications provided by this system will help your staff easily manage assigned tasks.

This is also beneficial for end-users since the system provides them with a tracking number. Form the moment they submit the FOIA request, citizens can track their request progress, in real-time.

6. Automatic Request Status Updates

The Armedia FOIA Module uses a pre-configured workflow even before the request is filed. By using a standard format our system makes sure that citizens cannot submit an incomplete FOIA request.

The multi-track system used in Case Management is beneficial for both agencies and requesters.

Requesters are enabled to always know the stage of their request in the process.

Agencies benefit from this system since employees always know their tasks during the entire process.

7. Online Data Storage

Capture properly all the right data with Armedia FOIA Module

Organizing paper-based forms in different categories and later trying to access them is a struggle for every agency. Holding digital forms on different physical servers is also stressful.

The Armedia FOIA Module makes sure that all the right data is captured properly and stored in a data-storage compliant manner. We are relying on the seamless integration of ArkCase, Alfresco and AWS to achieve this compliant cloud storage for all forms/cases.

This integration of The Armedia FOIA Module and ArkCase brings benefits like:

  • Scalable solution that grows as the database(s) grow, provided by AWS,
  • Secure, reliable records-keeping solution, provided by Alfresco,
  • Secure access to any request, from anywhere in the world.

It would be extremely difficult to replicate the level of security, flexibility, and accessibility to your data using any other solution.

Final Thoughts

We’ve built the Armedia FOIA Module based on real-world needs of organizations. We can rapidly configure and deploy a solution for very specific FOIA use cases.

The Armedia FOIA Module not only eases the FOIA Request process for citizens, but it also makes the Requests processing much easier for agencies.

Thanks to managing each request as a Case, we ensure that your agency gets all the automation needed out of the box. Also, the system can expand and adapt to your needs thanks to reliable technologies like ArkCase, Alfresco, and AWS.

All this works toward ensuring a seamless workflow, from form-submission to case-closure. And it’s all done following the strict regulations that govern FOIA Request Processing.

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