Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
What OGIS Found
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program receives a relatively small number of FOIA requests each year and is able to manage its backlog. Most of CFPB’s FOIA requests are categorized as simple, and the agency responds to these requests in an average of about 10 working days, half the time allowed under the law.
Despite an increase in the number of requests received each fiscal year (FY), the size of CFPB’s FOIA staff has been constant since FY 2016, and is not expected to grow within the next five years. Between FY 2013 and FY 2016, the average number of requests processed by each FOIA staff member more than doubled.
During our review, the FOIA office had one vacancy; CFPB was not able to fill the vacancy immediately due to a government-wide hiring freeze that was issued just after the employee’s departure. CFPB plans to fill the vacancy in FY 2018. A short-term detail from another division of the agency was helping the office keep up with its workload by handling administrative tasks and responding to public inquiries about requests.
CFPB has invested in technology that greatly enhances the efficiency of its FOIA program. The agency has purchased a FOIA processing and tracking system that includes reporting tools, gives the FOIA staff access to powerful technology that improves the program’s ability to locate responsive records, and allows for informed discussion with requesters about the scope of their requests. In addition to investing in these tools, the agency provides the FOIA program with sufficient technical support.
OGIS’s three primary findings are:
- CFPB faces management challenges to maintain its current responsiveness to FOIA requests during the next five years;
- CFPB’s investments in technologies improve the FOIA process; and
- CFPB communicates well with requesters.
What OGIS Recommends
We recommend that the CFPB FOIA program continue to engage agency leaders to explore strategies to ensure continued compliance with FOIA’s statutory time limits. We also recommend that CFPB follow U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance regarding metadata of released records, and that the FOIA unit set up a formal feedback loop to reduce the number of appeals remanded for further processing.
Compliance Assessment Report
Title: "Management Challenges, Significant Investment in Technology, and Effective Customer Service"
Date: August 15, 2017
120-day Follow-Up Material
- Letter Closing OGIS Recommendations for CFPB FOIA Program - January 29, 2018
- Compliance Assessment Response - January 17, 2018
- 120 Day Follow-up Letter - December 6, 2017