Four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are today seeking a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compliance at federal agencies. The request cites concerns raised in a May 2020 Justice Department report that there are government-wide delays in responding to FOIA requests.
“Compliance with FOIA, including the 2016 amendments, is mandatory for all federal agencies, even during unforeseen circumstances. As strong supporters of government transparency, we are concerned these obligations are not being met,” the senators wrote.
The letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro is signed by Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The four lawmakers are seeking specific information about the changes in the volume and timeliness of requests, responses and appeals under FOIA, as well as what changes agencies have made to accommodate FOIA requests during the pandemic.
The Senate Judiciary Committee holds jurisdiction over FOIA. The decades-old transparency statute was updated in 2016 when the FOIA Improvement Act was signed into law after being introduced by Cornyn, Leahy and Grassley.
Full text of the letter from Sens. Grassley, Durbin, Cornyn and Leahy can be found HERE.