The D.C. Freedom of Information Act provides that each city agency with a website make available on that site all records falling within 10 categories of information, if the records were created on or after November 1, 2001. This audit was undertaken to see how well District agencies are meeting that requirement. We reviewed websites for one additional consideration: Does the agency help citizens seeking information by displaying prominently on the website contact information and guidance on how to file a FOIA request.
The findings are based on an initial review of 54 agency sites from October to December 2009, with a check for any updates into March. This report focuses on eight of the ten categories of information the law requires agencies to post online. These eight are applicable to virtually every agency reviewed. The two categories not included in this audit relate to the recording of real estate transactions and building permits, areas that do not involve most agencies.
What information is on an agency's website?
Compare access to particular types of information across agencies.
As first time users of D.C. agency sites, we noticed that a majority share a common website design. This generally made navigating the sites easier. However, we found, even though most sites have common section headers, About Us, Services, and Information, the locations of FOIA-mandated information were inconsistent and often difficult to find.
For example, Minutes of Proceedings is located under About OPC on the Office of Police Complaints website but under the Information section on the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration site. Several agencies link to some of the FOIA-mandated information through an independent agency; for instance the Office of the State Superintendent of Education links to the State Board of Education. Some agencies force users to locate FOIA-mandated documents via a search engine. One example: the Office of Zoning, provides a significant number of FOIA-mandated documents through its search engine but does not provide appropriate “key words” or an index to help find the FOIA materials. As a result, it’s possible that FOIA-mandated information that resides on the agency’s site was simply not found in this review.