FY 2006 Annual FOIA Report

January 22, 2007



U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Fiscal Year 2006

Annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Report





I. Basic Information Regarding this Report



A. OGE contact person for questions about OGE's annual FOIA report for Fiscal Year 2006 (10/01/05-09/30/06): William E. Gressman, OGE FOIA Officer, Office of Government Ethics, Suite 500, 1201 New York Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20005-3917, Tel: 202-482-9245; TDD: 202-482-9293; FAX: 202-482-9237; E-mail: usoge@oge.gov.



B. Electronic address for this report: http://www.usoge.gov, OGE's Internet Web site, under the About OGE, Electronic Freedom of Information section.



C. How to obtain a paper copy of this report: download it from OGE's Web site (see part I.B. above) or request it from the OGE contact person (see part I.A. above).



II. How to Make a FOIA Request



FOIA requests for access to OGE records can be made verbally or preferably in writing by mail, FAX or E-mail addressed to the OGE FOIA Officer, at the address, telephone numbers and E-mail address indicated in part I.A. above. Requests must reasonably describe the records as to which access is sought, may address the willingness to pay any applicable fees (a request is generally deemed agreement to pay fees up to $25.00 unless a fee waiver is sought) and should otherwise comply with OGE=s FOIA regulations (see part XI below). OGE normally responds to requests within 20 working days and provides access to responsive records unless one of the FOIA exemptions or exclusions applies.



III. Definitions of Terms and Acronyms Used in this Report



A. Agency-specific acronyms and other terms:



1. FOIA -- Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552).



2. FY -- Fiscal Year.



3. OGE -- Office of Government Ethics.



4. PA -- Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a).



B. Basic terms:



1. FOIA/PA Request -- Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act request. A FOIA request is generally a request for disclosure of records concerning a third party, an organization or a particular topic of interest. A Privacy Act request is a request for records covered by that Act concerning the requester; such requests are also treated as FOIA requests. (All requests for records, regardless of which law is cited by the requester, are included in this report.)



2. Initial Request -- a request to OGE for records under the Freedom of Information Act.



3. Appeal -- a request to OGE asking that it review at a higher administrative level a full denial or partial denial of a FOIA request, or any other FOIA determination such as a matter pertaining to fees.



4. Processed Request or Appeal -- a request or appeal for which OGE has taken a final action on the request or the appeal in all respects.



5. Multi-track Processing -- a system in which simple requests requiring relatively minimal review are placed in one processing track and more voluminous and complex requests are placed in one or more other tracks. Requests in each track are processed on a first-in/first-out basis. Note: OGE does not have multi-track processing as it generally responds to requests on a timely basis and does not have any FOIA backlog. A requester who has an urgent need for records may request expedited processing. (See part III.B.6. directly below.)



6. Expedited Processing -- OGE will process a FOIA request on an expedited basis when a requester has shown an exceptional need or urgency for the records which warrants prioritization of his or her request over other requests that were made earlier.



7. Simple Request -- a FOIA request that a Federal agency using multi-track processing places in its fastest (nonexpedited) track based on the volume and/or simplicity of records requested. As noted, OGE does not have multi-track processing.



8. Complex Request -- a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in a slower track based on the volume and/or complexity of records requested. Again, as noted, OGE does not have multi-track processing.



9. Grant -- an OGE decision to disclose all records in full in response to a FOIA request.



10. Partial Grant -- an OGE decision to disclose a record or records in part in response to a FOIA request, deleting information determined to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA=s exemptions; or a decision to disclose some records in their entireties, but to withhold others in whole or in part.



11. Denial -- an OGE decision not to release any part of a record or records in response to a FOIA request because the information in all the requested records is determined by OGE to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA=s exemptions, or for some procedural reason (such as because no record is located in response to a FOIA request).



12. Time Limits -- the time period in the Freedom of Information Act for a Federal agency, including OGE, to respond to a FOIA request (ordinarily 20 working days from proper receipt of a Aperfected@ FOIA request -- see part III.B.13. and 17. below). Note: the OGE response times in part VII below are, in accordance with Justice Department guidance, given in working days.



13. "Perfected" Request -- a FOIA request for records which adequately describes the records sought, which has been received by OGE's FOIA office (for OGE records), and for which there is no remaining question about the payment of applicable fees.



14. Exemption 3 Statute -- a separate Federal statute prohibiting the disclosure of a certain type of information and authorizing its withholding under FOIA subsection (b)(3), which is "Exemption 3."



15. Median Number -- the middle, not average number. For example, of 3, 7 and 14, the median number is 7. In part VII below, OGE's response times are given in median calendar days.



16. Average Number -- the number obtained by dividing the sum of a group of numbers by the quantity of numbers in the group. For example, of 3, 7 and 14, the average number is 8.



17. Working Days -- days excepting Saturdays, Sundays and legal public holidays. As noted, OGE's response times in part VII below are given in median working days.



IV. Exemption 3 Statutes



A. List of FOIA Exemption 3 statutes relied on by OGE during Fiscal Year 2006 (10/01/05-09/30/06): None.



1. Brief description of types of information withheld under each statute:



N/A.



2. Statement of whether a court has upheld the use of each statute:



N/A.



V. Initial FOIA/PA Requests



A. Numbers of initial requests



1. Number of requests pending as of the end of the preceding fiscal year (FY 2005): 2.



2. Number of requests received during the fiscal year covered by this annual report (FY 2006): 31.



3. Number of requests processed during FY 2006: 32.



4. Number of requests pending as of the end of FY 2006: 1.



B. Disposition of initial requests



1. Number of total grants: 10.



2. Number of partial grants: 4.



3. Number of (total) denials: 0.



a. Number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per request):



(1) Exemption 1: 0.



(2) Exemption 2: 1.



(3) Exemption 3: 0.



(4) Exemption 4: 0.



(5) Exemption 5: 3.



(6) Exemption 6: 3.



(7) Exemption 7(A): 0.



(8) Exemption 7(B): 0.



(9) Exemption 7(C): 0.



(10) Exemption 7(D): 0.



(11) Exemption 7(E): 0.



(12) Exemption 7(F): 0.



(13) Exemption 8: 0.



(14) Exemption 9: 0.



4. Other reasons for nondisclosure in whole or in part (total): 18.



a. No records: 11.



b. Referrals: 2.



c. Request withdrawn: 1.



d. Fee-related reason: 0.



e. Records not reasonably described: 1.



f. Not a proper FOIA request for some other reason: 3.



g. Not an agency record: 0.



h. Duplicate request: 0.



i. Other (specify): 0.



VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests



A. Numbers of appeals



1. Number of appeals pending as of the end of the preceding fiscal year (FY 2005): 0.



2. Number of appeals received during the fiscal year covered by this annual report (FY 2006): 3.



3. Number of appeals processed during FY 2006: 3.



4. Number of appeals pending as of the end of FY 2006: 0.



B. Disposition of appeals



1. Number of initial determinations completely upheld: 3.



2. Number of initial determinations partially reversed: 0.



3. Number of initial determinations completely reversed: 0.



a. Number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per appeal):



(1) Exemption 1: 0.



(2) Exemption 2: 0.



(3) Exemption 3: 0.



(4) Exemption 4: 0.



(5) Exemption 5: 1.



(6) Exemption 6: 0.



(7) Exemption 7(A): 0.



(8) Exemption 7(B): 0.



(9) Exemption 7(C): 0.



(10) Exemption 7(D): 0.



(11) Exemption 7(E): 0.



(12) Exemption 7(F): 0.



(13) Exemption 8: 0.



(14) Exemption 9: 0.



4. Other reasons for nondisclosure in whole or in part (total): 2.



a. No records: 2.



b. Referrals: 0.



c. Request withdrawn: 0.



d. Fee-related reason: 0.



e. Records not reasonably described: 0.



f. Not a proper FOIA request for some other reason: 0.



g. Not an agency record: 0.



h. Duplicate request: 0.



i. Other (specify): 0.



VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests



A. Median processing time for requests processed during FY 2006



1. Total for all requests:



a. Number of requests processed: 32.



b. Median number of working days to process: 12.5.



2. Requests accorded expedited processing:



a. Number of requests processed: 0.



b. Median number of working days to process: N/A.



B. Status of pending requests as of the end of FY 2006



1. Number of requests pending as of the end of FY 2006 (9/30/06): 1.



2. Median number of working days that such requests were pending as of that date: 8.



VIII. Comparisons with Preceding Year/Other Significant Statistics



A. Comparison of numbers of requests received



1. Number of requests received during the preceding fiscal year (FY 2005): 52.



2. Number of requests received during the fiscal year covered by this annual report (FY 2006): 32.



3. Percentage change: -38.5%.



B. Comparison of numbers of requests processed



1. Number of requests processed during the preceding fiscal year (FY 2005): 53.



2. Number of requests processed during the fiscal year covered by this annual report (FY 2006): 32.



3. Percentage change: -39.6%.



C. Comparison of median numbers of working days requests were pending as of the end of the fiscal year (carry-over requests)



1. Median number of working days requests were pending as of the end of the preceding fiscal year (FY 2005): 11.



2. Median number of working days requests were pending as of the end of the fiscal year covered by this annual report (FY 2006): 8.



3. Percentage change: -27.3%.



D. Other significant statistics



1. Number of requests for expedited processing received during the fiscal year covered by this report (FY 2006): 0.



2. Number of such requests granted during FY 2006: N/A.



IX. Costs/FOIA Staffing



A. Staffing levels



1. Number of full-time FOIA personnel during the fiscal year covered by this annual report (FY 2006): 0.



2. Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in estimated total work-years) during FY 2006: 0.40.



3. Total number of personnel (in estimated work-years) during FY 2006: 0.40.



B. Total costs (including staff and all resources)



1. FOIA processing (estimated -- including requests and appeals) during fiscal year covered by this annual report (FY 2006): $40,000.



2. Litigation-related activities (estimated) during FY 2006: $0.00.



3. Total costs (estimated) during FY 2006: $40,000.



4. Comparison of total costs:



a. Total costs (estimated) during the preceding fiscal year (FY 2005): $50,000.



b. Total costs (estimated) during the fiscal year covered by this annual report (FY 2006): $40,000.



c. Percentage change: -20.0%.



X. Fees



A. Total amount of fees collected by OGE for processing requests: $0.00.



B. Percentage of total estimated costs: 0%.



XI. FOIA Regulations (Including Fee Schedule)



OGE's FOIA regulations, including the fee schedule, are codified at 5 C.F.R. part 2604.



XII. Report on FOIA Executive Order Implementation



A. Description of supplementation/modification of agency improvement plan (if applicable):



N/A.



B. Report on agency implementation of its plan, including its performance in meeting milestones, with respect to each improvement area:



OGE has completed all of the milestones for the six FOIA improvement areas for 2006 on a timely basis and has commenced its 2007 FOIA improvements areas. A brief summary follows. First, by mid-January 2006, OGE had made all of its FOIA E.O. 13392 designations of the new OGE Chief FOIA Officer (the Deputy General Counsel), FOIA Requester Service Center Telephone Number (202-482-9210; TDD 202-482-9293) and Public Liaison (the FOIA Officer, given OGE's small agency status), with E-mail notification to the Department of Justice and the Office of Management and Budget. Second, by the end of February 2006, OGE had formalized separation of its FOIA/Privacy Act (PA) request and administrative appeal functions. Third, throughout 2006 and 2007 to date, OGE has maintained the high level of politeness and courtesy due to FOIA/PA requesters as persons seeking Government services from this Agency in the records request and retrieval field. As a measurement of successful completion of this improvement area, OGE's FOIA Requester Service Center and Public Liaison did not receive any requester complaints about their treatment during 2006 or 2007 to date. Fourth, OGE maintained a 100% timely FOIA/PA request response rate throughout 2006 and 2007 to date (in excess of its 85% and 90% timeliness goals for the two respective periods). Fifth, OGE has continued to avoid any backlog of FOIA/PA requests. Sixth, OGE updated its FOIA/PA authority delegation document on time by the end of September 2006. In addition, OGE has started to work on its further 2007 improvement areas - review/updates as needed to its FOIA Website and regulation and development of an annual FOIA/PA orientation training plan for all OGE program staff.



C. Identification and discussion of any deficiency in meeting plan milestones (if applicable):



N/A, OGE has met all of its plan milestones to date.



D. Additional narrative statement regarding other executive order-related activities (optional):



N/A, OGE has chosen not to include such an optional statement.



E. Concise descriptions of FOIA exemptions:



The six FOIA exemptions OGE most often relies upon for withholding information are:

Exemption 2: Protects internal personnel and administrative materials.

Exemption 3: Protects information that is prohibited from disclosure by other laws, such as the limitation on access to SF 278 report information except pursuant to an appropriate Ethics Act request (see section 105 of the Ethics Act) and the confidentiality provision for OGE Form 450 Confidential Financial Disclosure Reports (see section 107 of the Ethics Act).

Exemption 4: Protects trade secrets and privileged or confidential commercial or financial information.

Exemption 5: Protects certain interagency and intra-agency predecisional deliberative communications.

Exemption 6: Protects information about individuals when disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

Exemption 7: Protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, if certain interests would be harmed by release, including when disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings or to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

OGE does not generally rely on FOIA exemptions 1 (classified national defense or foreign policy information), 8 (financial institution regulation/supervision agency examination, operating or condition reports) or 9 (geological/geophysical information, including maps, concerning wells).



F. Additional statistics:



1. Time range of requests pending (currently), by date of request (or, where applicable, by date of referral from another agency):



OGE has one pending request, date of receipt: 01/17/2007, which has been pending for three working days as of the date of this report (01/22/2007).



2. Time range of consultations pending (currently) with other agencies, by date of initial interagency communication:



N/A, OGE does not have any pending consultations as of the date of this FOIA fiscal year report.



G. Attachment: Agency improvement plan (in current form): E.O. 13392 FOIA Improvement Review Plan/Report (PDF - HTML).