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FOIA Principle 7: Clarify Fees And Waiver Procedures

by | Jul 19, 2017 | FOIA Software Solutions | 0 comments

Agencies must adopt clear procedures for fees and waivers. These procedures include fees for searching for information, the release of information, and duplication of information. Many requesters have expressed frustration with the FOIA fee system; issues such as fee-delays in processing requests, high charges, and inconsistent treatment. Agencies need to ensure that their procedures for FOIA fees are clear, prompt, and reasonable.

A modern case management system is needed, and a modern document management system that makes data distribution and retrieval practically instantaneous is available! Armedia’s FOIA Module provides that modern system!

armedia foia module modern document management system

Adopt a Reasonable Threshold for Minimum Free Charges

Recouping charges for producing small FOIA requests is a costly procedure and may contribute to processing delays. Agencies shouldn’t charge the requester if the costs of routine processing and collection of the fee are equal or exceed the amount of the fee. If the agencies do not charge fees for any request where the fees total would be less than $50 this will be an additional cost for the agency. Dealing with these kinds of regulations can be a huge struggle for many agencies and can result in unrestrained costs.

Armedia’s FOIA Module is an open source platform that offers you a simple way for collecting and classifying all the requests that fall into these low-cost categories. The new FOIA module (based on ArkCase’s open source case management platform) allows you to adopt a reasonable threshold for minimum free charges. This is your best solution for assessment of fees and fee waivers so that the requesters won’t express frustration with the FOIA fee system.

Provide Discretion To Waive More Fees

Besides the statutory requirements for awarding fee waivers, agencies can use administrative discretion to reduce or waive fees in other circumstances on a case-by-case basis. The President has called for agencies to administer the FOIA “in a spirit of cooperation,” but there may be cases where it would be more effective and accommodating to waive or reduce fees than to insist on fees and prompt a dispute.

Agencies should also reduce or waive fees in other circumstances as a matter of administrative discretion.

Armedia created the FOIA module that, in cooperation with ArkCase Open Source software, solves these kinds of potential problems. Using this specified plugin enables the agencies to provide discretion to waive more fees.

Comply With The Statutory Prohibition Against Fees For Requests Exceeding Time Limits

FOIA imposes consequences if agencies fail to meet the statutory time limits for processing requests. The law provides that an agency will not assess search fees, if the agency does not comply with the time limit for processing FOIA requests. So, again, as an agency, you will not charge a fee for processing a FOIA request if your agency exceeds any time limit in processing that request.

Armedia has dedicated industry expertise and a broad solutions portfolio that will help you comply with the statutory prohibition against fees for requests exceeding time limits. We can help!

FOIA Statutory Prohibition Against Fees

Conclusion

Many agencies struggle during the processing of FOIA requests. Armedia’s FOIA Module is built on an open source platform that offers you an easy way to collect and classify all the requests.

ArkCase will help you adopt clear procedures for fees and waivers by :

  • Streamlining the accumulation of FOIA requests from many channels (fax, letter, web form, email, or phone call)
  • Collecting confidential information, redact (“black out”) with configuration exemption codes
  • Bundling up responses for instant delivery based on the requestor’s preference
  • Routing FOIA requests promptly and efficiently through a queue review process
  • Generating annual and periodic reports (that is, DOJ and Vaughn index reports)
  • Tailoring to your agency’s review and approval

With these features in Armedia’s FOIA Module, your agency can do more…with less.  Let us know (below) what you think. What issues is your agency or department facing in the FOIA challenge?

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