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FOIA Principle 5: Prevent The Destruction From Records And Apply A Presumption Of Disclosure

by | Jul 5, 2017 | FOIA Software Solutions | 0 comments

Destruction of confidential documents is the ultimate means of hiding something. Unfortunately, it’s a practice, or “mistake”, that has become far too common. Federal legislation governs the handling of old/classified documents. ArkCase, powered by Alfresco, will help your organization fully compliant with records management legislation. The Armedia FOIA Module, built in this ArkCase-Alfresco technology stack, offers your organization peace of mind when it comes to keeping all your FOIA related documentation in check.

Agencies must adopt a “foreseeable harm” standard for withholding information. As a balance, agencies should minimize withholding of information (which can reduce disputes with requesters and avoid litigation). Agencies should also take steps to release information on a proactive, rolling basis and to prevent the destruction of records.

We picked Arcade as the platform for our FOIA solution because ArkCase is an open-source platform and is built with a point-and-click interface capable of handling all the challenges while minimizing the withholding of information.

Adopting a “Foreseeable Harm” Standard

 

“Foreseeable Harm” Standard

FOIA establishes a strong presumption of disclosure. Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s FOIA guidelines precisely explained how agencies should implement FOIA’s presumption in favor of disclosure. The guidelines inhibit FOIA request if:

  • the agencies foresee that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions, or if
  • the law prohibits disclosure.

Adopting this “foreseeable harm” standard helps to ensure that an agency does not withhold information unnecessarily.

Using ArkCase and the FOIA module, your organization or department can easily meet these requirements. Not only that, you can create and issue an appropriate response to the requester, thanks to the system’s built-in notification workflow.

Release Records on a Proactive, Rolling Basis

 

Release Records on Proactive Rolling Basis

Often, FOIA requesters want the requested information ASAP, which makes the timeliness of responses critical to efficient FOIA processing. Releasing records as they are processed, instead of waiting to complete processing of the complete request, increases the timeliness of disclosure (and by that the usefulness of the disclosed records). Thus, the Office of Information Policy and the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) recommend that agencies conduct rolling releases of records, commonly called “interim releases,” whenever possible.

As ArkCase-FOIA Module allows very intuitive document management workflow, agencies can easily stay a few steps ahead in the release of information process. That way you get a dual benefit:

  • First, the technology stack helps you in the Proactive Disclosure process, and
  • Your department will be processing fewer requests, and faster too.

Prevent the Destruction of Records

 

Records management regulations require agencies to prohibit the destruction of a document that has a FOIA request for disclosure

Records management regulations require agencies to prohibit the destruction of a document that has a FOIA request for disclosure. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) provides a government-wide schedule for how long the agencies must maintain records related to FOIA request.

Disclosure cannot happen if records are destroyed. When records requested under FOIA are destroyed, it is the same as a permanent denial. Just as agencies take steps to prevent the destroying of evidence in legal proceedings, they should also ensure that records requested under FOIA stay available.

Using ArkCase-FOIA as your platform can help your agency to maintain copies of records that are the subject of a pending requests or lawsuits under FOIA. It also allows your agency to preserve all correspondence related to FOIA requests until disposition is authorized under the NARA’s General Records guidelines.

Conclusion

Handling the FOIA request processes can mean a lot of complex tasks for your organization. Department heads and managers are aware that preventing the destruction of records and applying a presumption of disclosure is a priority for all agencies.  They need an intuitive tool to ensure that all required procedures are followed on a daily basis.

Armedia’s FOIA Module is built with these needs in mind. The module builds on top of the reliable and compliant document management capabilities of ArkCase which also allows the flexibility of case-based work flow for each FOIA request. The design and functionality of the FOIA module is built in such a way that it offers all the features and work flows out of the box with a simple point and click mechanism to fine tune settings.  No coding required.

With this kind of a technology stack, your department or organization has the tools needed to face all the FOIA related challenges.

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