Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray announced two new open government initiatives last week aimed at improving transparency, public participation and accountability within the city’s government.
The initiatives include procurement for new software for processing Freedom of Information Act requests and requesting public comments on the city’s transparency and open government platform.
The new FOIA system, called FOIAXpress, will be the District’s first-ever citywide FOIA-processing system.
“This new automated FOIA system is in keeping with one of the goals of my One City Action Plan – strengthening government accountability,” Gray said. “We believe FOIAXpress will help users obtain information about District government operations more quickly and more efficiently and give the public a better understanding of the workings of the government.”
The District obtained the new system after studying its effective use by many federal agencies, including the General Services Administration and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
District officials also worked in consultation with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Office of Open Government in making the decision to adopt the FOIAXpress system.
“The automated system will be a great benefit not only to the public in improving transparency, but to District government agencies, which will be able to more timely and efficiently process the thousands of FOIA requests received by the District every year,” said Traci Hughes, director of the Office of Open Government.
This software also will allow agencies to publish documents to a centralized open government website that will serve as a reading room for information required to be made public in addition to frequently requested documents that will be readily available as part of the District’s Transparency and Open Government Initiative.
“Using technology to unify disparate sources of information crucial to the public and to the District government’s policymaking process is central to creating a more open and transparent government,” Gray said.
Gray also announced his administration is publishing a “Request for Comments on the District’s Transparency and Open Government Initiative” to encourage the public to participate in the formulation of possible initiatives and methods to increase openness and transparency in government. Comments may relate to governmentwide or agency-specific policy, law, technology, culture and practices on issues such as:
- What government information should be more readily available online or more easily searched;
- Which document or data formats should be available for online information; and
- How the operations of District government can be made more transparent and accountable.
Public comments received through the effort ultimately will be used to produce an Open Government Directive that will instruct executive agencies on specific actions to implement the principles of openness and transparency. The Office of Open Government and other governmental and private stakeholders also will be consulted during this process.