Department of Labor officials consistently fail to respond to public-records requests within 20 days, as federal law requires, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
The Department of Labor (DOL) missed the deadline to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests 24 percent of the time in fiscal year 2014, but the most politically sensitive offices — like the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of the Secretary — missed the 20-day deadline 70 percent of the time in the cases reviewed.
Labor officials also failed to tell requesters about the delays, or explain the rationale behind them, according to the report. FOIA grants any American has the right to request public records from the government.
“The Freedom of Information Act is a hallmark for openness in our government,” reads a statement from Sen. Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Johnson requested the GAO report.
“As the GAO report shows, the Labor Department is failing in its duty of transparency and accountability to the American people. Especially given the Labor Department’s recent onslaught of burdensome regulations, I urge Secretary [Thomas] Perez to improve the department’s compliance with FOIA so that the public fully knows what the department is doing.”
DOL also failed to notify FOIA requesters that they can receive help from a FOIA mediator through the Office of Government Information Services when disputes arose. This, despite multiple orders from the Department of Justice that they do so. (RELATED: Obama Killing Open Government With ‘Secrecy’)
FOIA requesters sued the Labor Department 68 times from 2005 to 2014 over its failure to comply with FOIA, and the department spent about $429,000 litigating FOIA lawsuits in fiscal year 2015, according to the report.
Labor received about 17,100 FOIA requests in fiscal year 2015.
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