Date: May 7, 1996
Series: Administrative Procedure
Part 203: Freedom of Information Act
Originating Office: Division of Policy and Directives Management
2.1 Departmental Procedures.
A. Regulations covering availability of records, requests for records, preliminary processing of requests, action on initial requests, time limits, appeals, fees, and waiver of fees are prescribed in 43 CFR 2 (Exhibit 1).
B. Handbook. The Department has issued a handbook entitled "Freedom of Information Act Handbook" (383 DM 15) which supplements Departmental guidance in 43 CFR 2 and 383 DM 15. The handbook is available as a reference in each Regional Office administering the FOIA and in Headquarters, Policy and Directives Management Staff.
2.2 Service Procedures
A. Action Office. The office responsible for preparing the response to a FOIA request will:
(1) Perform the necessary search for records and prepare the response to the requester.
(2) Follow established correspondence management procedures regarding signature authority.
(3) Ensure that time limits are met, responses are complete and accurate, fees are collected, and necessary records are kept.
(1) An employee who receives an incorrectly routed FOIA request will promptly notify the Region or Service FOIA Officer and forward the request to the office identified by the FOIA official for response. If controlled correspondence, follow established correspondence management procedures (282 FW 2).
(2) Any time an action office refers a FOIA request, whether in whole or in part, to another action office within the Service, or to another bureau or agency for direct response pursuant to 43 CFR 2.5, the responsible official will notify the appropriate Regional or Service FOIA Officer. If controlled correspondence, refer to 282 FW 2. In addition, the requestor should be notified whenever the request is forwarded to another bureau or Federal agency.
(3)Whenever a request involving multiple bureaus may require coordination to ensure a uniform response by the Department, the Service FOIA Officer is available to assist the action officer.
A. Uniform Fee Schedule. The Department-wide uniform fee schedule for requests under the FOIA is published as Appendix A to 43 CFR 2. Stipulations in the fee schedule provide that a requestor should indicate the maximum amount of fees that he or she is willing to pay. Also, a waiver or reduction in fees is allowable in specific cases.
B. Collection of Fees. Fees collected from the public under the FOIA may be retained by the Service. Fees collected are deposited in the Treasury and then credited to the Department of the Interior for the Service. Accordingly, FOIA regulations found in 43 CFR 2.20(i) state that payment of fees should be made by check or money order payable to the Department of the Interior or to the Service. For procedures in recouping these fees, refer to 261 FW 1, Cash Accountability.
C. Statutory Fee Waivers. Documents shall be furnished without charge or at a reduced fee if disclosure of the information is in the public interest. Specific guidance pertaining to statutory fee waivers may be found 43 CFR 2.21(a). A fee reduction may occur for those portions of a requested file containing information reasonably determined to be of interest and value to the general public. In such a case, the amount may be adjusted commensurate to the public interest portion of the file.
D. Discretionary Waiver. Fees otherwise chargeable may be waived at the discretion of the Service. Guidelines for waiving fees may be found in 43 CFR 2.21(b). The Service will comply with the guidelines to the extent practicable.
A. A decision to withhold a requested record, to release a record that is exempt from disclosure, or to deny a fee waiver request may be made by:
(1) An Assistant or Regional Director; but only
(2) After consultation with the relevant component of the Solicitor's Office.
B. Regional Directors may reassign this responsibility to project leaders on a standing or case-by-case basis. Any reassignment must be in writing and on file with the Regional FOIA Officer.
C. The Service and Region FOIA Officers are available to assist the above official in these decisions.
2.5 Appeals. Requestors will be informed in writing of their right to appeal denials. Appeals are made to and decided by the Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management, and Budget or designee, after consultation with the Solicitor, the Departmental Director of Communications, and the appropriate program Assistant Secretary. Official files for all appeals are maintained by the Departmental FOIA Officer.
A. All FOIA requests, upon receipt, will be annotated with the date received.
B. Although a separate system of records is not required for FOIA requests, each request will be filed together with:
(1) A copy of the response(s) to the request.
(2) A copy or itemization of every record or part of it disclosed to a requester, as well as a copy or itemization of all records or parts thereof that have been denied.
(3) Documentation of sound grounds for invoking any exemptions to release of requested records.
(4) All records concerning the status of the request, followup correspondence with the requester, and records of any time extensions taken.
(5) Intra-agency communications concerning the request.
(6) Documentation concerning payment or waiver of fees.
(7) A copy of any appeal filed with the Department.
C. FOIA files may constitute a system of records under the Privacy Act if they are retrievable by name or some other type of personal identifier. If so, they must be maintained in accordance with 204 FW, Privacy Act.
D. Action offices are encouraged to maintain sufficient summary information to facilitate their input to the Service's annual FOIA report (see 203 FW 1.6.)
For additional information about this policy, contact the Service’s FOIA Officer. For more information regarding this Web page, contact Krista Bibb, in the Division of Policy and Directives Management.