This morning we were pleasantly surprised to find that an electronic version of the report the MSPB released to us under the FOIA had been added to FOIAOnline’s database. One of the supposed benefits of the FOIAOnline system is that once an agency using FOIAOnline releases a record, it can easily make it available to the public. This is intended to help cut down on the number of duplicate requests because users are encouraged to search for previously released records before filing their request. Obviously, these searches will not help cut down on similar requests, however, if searches don’t turn up the correct documents.
We decided to test FOIAOnline’s search system by looking for the report that had been released to us by the MSPB. To make it easier to find the record, we only searched for released documents at the MSPB.
Unfortunately, searches on terms we assumed anyone interested in records management would use – electronic records and records management – turned up no results — likely because the record is not appropriately meta-tagged.
The only search that did turn up a copy of the MSPB report used the last name of the requester — certainly not a general search term someone interested in records management would think to use.
It’s great that the report is now available in an electronic format, but to fully reap the benefits of the system, it must be appropriately meta-tagged and findable.
This morning we logged into our FOIAOnline account to check on the status of our outstanding FOIA requests at the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unfortunately, despite the fact we are about two weeks past the expected delivery date, there have been no updates on either request.
We did notice something new about our completed request at the Merit Service Protection Board (MSPB), however. As you may remember, we were concerned that MSPB had mailed us the final report, meaning the electronic version would probably not be made publicly available through FOIAOnline. When we logged into the account today, an electronic version of the MSPB’s response and the requested report were available for download.
Be sure to check out our next post to see what happens when we try to use FOIAOnline’s search system to fund the released record…
On 10/18/12 we received a final response from the Merit Service Protection Board. The response was unexpected on a few counts:
- Our FOIAonline account still listed the request as in the processing phase, with an expected due date of November 2.
- The response and record were mailed to us, despite the fact our request specified we wanted the document in en electronic form. An electronic version of the released record is also not currently available via FOIAonline (which is supposed to be one of the advantages of the system).
- The record was released in full. As we noted in our description of this project, we asked for a record that could easily be withheld under FOIA Exemption 5 (pre-decisional information). NARA previously denied our request in full based on exemption 5.
We will have to see if an electronic version of the record ever shows up on FOIAonline. In the meantime, download the MSPB’s response and the released record below.
MSPB – RM Report – Released in Full
On 10/15/12 we logged into FOIAonline to check the status of our requests at the EPA, the Merit Service Protection Board, and Commerce. EPA and the MSPB have classified our request as “simple” and MSPB expects we will have a response to our request by 11/2/12. Here is what we saw:
We filed our request with the Merit Service Protection Board via FOIAonline on 10/4/2012. The system automatically generated a tracking number – MSPB-OCB-2013-000009