Handling public records requests is a complex process that many government agencies are rapidly modernizing given the recent reports of large legal fees associated with withholding. In many agencies, employees are still hunting down paper-based documents from multiple departments and offices, making manual redactions, and physically delivering the records.
Even though FOIA professionals recognize that their processes can be improved with technology, the increased complexity from changes in legislation have led to shortcomings in the effective public records request processing. More importantly, FOIA departments are pressured to fulfill public records requests within a given timeframe.
In our conversations with FOIA personnel, the overwhelming solution to the problem is automation. Automating the entire public records process can help FOIA departments reduce their backlogs and improve efficiency by allowing technology to identify duplications, bulk redact sensitive information and automate the delivery of information, while keeping citizens informed throughout the process.
Let’s see how using ArkCase FOIA for modernizing and automating the public records process can address major FOIA challenges.
Key Benefits Of Automating The Public Records Request Processing
In an organization that still relies on manual handling of requests, completing a public records request can be completely different from one request to another, leaving the organization vulnerable for litigation from improperly responding to record requests. In addition, the time employees spend tracking down the records can lead to frustration and an inability to meet the daily demands for record requests. ArkCase FOIA can help!
Here are a few key benefits an automated Public Records solution will bring to your agency:
1. Simplified Public Records Request Processes
While handling public records requests, FOIA agencies are facing many complexities, including how the public requests are received, processed, and archived. Delays due to inefficient public records request processing can be costly for your FOIA agency and frustrating for requesters.
With automated public records software, your agency can ease the whole process of responding to public record requests since automation can streamline the process, create greater transparency and collaboration, provide proactive alerts, assist with redaction and much more. In addition, citizens are proactively kept aware of their request resulting in greater confidence in their government
2. Quickly Discover Records
You’re surely aware of how much time and effort it takes to search for records as part of a public record request. With automated public records software, your staff can quickly identify duplicative requests to save time or integrate with a eDiscovery platform, to find records. Within a request, multiple tasks can be marshalled to the various departments to aggregate the records. Once records are collected, they can be routed to different users for redaction and quality control.
The ability for a public records solution to integrate with external systems to discover records is a great benefit to Records Analyst. This will help you avoid missed deadlines and incomplete responses to requests.
3. Easy Way to Fill Out Requests
Every requester expects reliable, fast, and effective service. No one wants to come to your office and spend a day filling a public records request. Especially not today, when everything can be done from anywhere with the help of the Internet.
Having a public records software solution means having a modern, intuitive, easy to use Web-based platform your requesters can use for submitting public records requests within minutes. When a request is submitted, your staff will be notified immediately, and the requesters can track the progress of their request.
This will help your agency reduce the FOIA backlogs and communicate with requesters on time.
4. Efficient Communication And Collaboration
When an agency fails to respond to a public record request in a timely fashion, there are many disappointed citizens. This is why implementing a modern public records solution will help you noticeably speed up communication with requesters and collaboration between departments.
Recently, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer claimed 50% reduction of backlogs thanks to modern technology:
“ The Office of the Chief Financial Officer has decreased their backlog and processed 50% more FOIA requests in the first 5 months, compared to previous years, leveraging ArkCase FOIA.”
5. Secure Release Of Information
The volume of submitted public records requests is constantly increasing, as are the backlogs. With looming deadlines, the risk of lawsuits and penalties is a scary proposition.
A modern public records solution will be capable of pre-redacting data. Since most of the data that is being redacted is Personally Identifiable Information (PII), government agencies can use modern public records solution to easily determine if the needed documents meet all the requirements and then review them for necessary redactions.
When the documents are properly redacted and reviewed, the public records solution should prepare the final version for delivery.
These are just a handful of reasons why modernizing the records management process is so beneficial. Both citizens and government agencies benefit. We would get more work done in less time with fewer errors that are usually caused by poor process management and human error.
How The ArkCase FOIA as a Public Records Solution Can Help Government Agencies
The ArkCase FOIA software is a comprehensive solution that can help government agencies efficiently manage the entire public records lifecycle, from capturing to fulfillment to response.
ArkCase allows government agencies to search through different data and metadata sources (OCRed document, transcripts, audio and video recordings)
Also, this public records solution will help your agency be more productive while maintaining confidence in document security and legislative responses.
The ArkCase public records software is a cost-effective, flexible, fast, off-the-shelf solution that can help you meet all of your public records needs.
With the ArkCase public records software, you will benefit from the following:
- Centralized processing from various request channels: fax, web, paper.
- Simplified uploads of documents, photos, and videos.
- Compliance with security and records retention.
- Mobile friendly and cloud-ready.
- Automated business intelligence.
- Reduced risk of information loss.
- Faster information assembling.
- Automatic records declaration.
- Improved workflow capacity.
- Faster access to information.
- Higher user productivity.
- Faster response rate.
As we live in an era of rapidly growing and changing workforce, the solution you choose needs to be intuitive and adaptable to changes. It needs to be a solution that will evolve with your agency’s requirements.
One thing to point out about the ArkCase public records solution is the strong redaction mechanism. You can redact any document and also add annotations to explain what laws govern the hiding of a specific spot on the released document.
The employees can review the redactions and edit them as needed. You can also “burn” a redacted version, without affecting the actual document.
Utilizing the ArkCase public records solution will help you save tons of time. It will help you reduce the errors and the risks to requesters, employees, or organization by accidental disclosures. Also, this solution includes reporting functionality and review accelerators developed in the demanding eDiscovery world.
Every year, public record requests are increasing in volume, but so are the backlogs. Whether the requests are coming from constituents or media entities, your government agency has a responsibility to fulfill them within a given timeframe.
Traditional public records solutions require a lot more time and resources and lead to increased backlogs and potentially costly lawsuits. On the other hand, citizens are demanding more transparency from the government, so the volume and diversity of public records requests will continue to grow in the future.
The good news is modern public records solutions exist to allow agencies to manage requests from submission to fulfillment. One such solution is the ArkCase public records solution.
The ArkCase public records solution will help you capture all of the public requests in its software repository, convert them into electronic files and assign them to the person in charge.
By implementing the ArkCase public records solution, your agency can reduce the time, resources, and staff needed to keep up with the ever-growing demand and increasing complexity of requests.
Where does your organization stand on the FOIA Software Upgrade topic? Do you think a modern Records Management solution can help your organization process public records requests faster? Let us know in the comments below. And, if you have specific questions about the process of FOIA Modernization, feel free to contact us.