FOIA

2018 Chief FOIA Officer Report

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Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
Tamiko N. W. Watkins
Associate General Counsel and Chief FOIA Officer

MCC applies the “presumption of openness” by effectively utilizing transparency, public participation, and collaboration to form a cornerstone of open government in our agency. We make every effort to inform the public about our work by making our data public and accessible. We are recognized as an international leader in transparency. To further public participation, we invite the public to contribute their ideas, expertise, and feedback to support MCC’s work, driving economic growth and fighting poverty. MCC proactively posts its data on prospective, current, and closed partner country programs on its website as well as includes selections of publicly available resources on countries being considered for investment, active programs, post-closeout evaluations, information on procurement opportunities, and reports and documents published in the Federal Register.

To ensure that the FOIA is administered in the “spirit of cooperation”, MCC decisions regarding the public release of its information are based on a presumption of disclosure. If information does not meet any of the exceptions laid out by the FOIA or in other regulations or presidential memos, MCC works to disclose the information. MCC’s decisions are guided by:

  • MCC Open Government Plan—The Plan outlines information the agency makes publically available and describes priorities for new initiatives planned to further improve access to MCC information.
  • MCC Policy on Access to Materials—This policy describes the exceptions to the presumption of disclosure and clarifies the level of clearance required for release of various documents. This policy helps MCC staff determine whether a document should be released publicly while maintaining the highest standards for sensitive information, personal privacy and other reasons as laid out in FOIA or elsewhere.
  • Disclosure Review Board—MCC’s independent evaluations are conducted to document the outputs, outcomes and impact of our investments. These investments often involve large-scale survey data collection efforts. MCC believes this data constitutes a global public good and aims to release it to the public while maintaining the highest legal and ethical standards. MCC formed a Disclosure Review Board to ensure survey data meets sufficient anonymization procedures before it is publicly released.

MCC has four employees who assist with the FOIA program. The MCC FOIA Program Officer is the most dedicated resource to the FOIA program by utilizing about 30% of her time to the FOIA program. To ensure that there is good communication and good customer service when working with requesters MCC has added one FOIA Public Liaison to provide further assistance to our Chief FOIA Officer and FOIA Program Officer. The MCC FOIA Appeals Officer is not directly involved with our FOIA program office until a need for their services arise.

All members of the MCC’s FOIA program office have been trained on the FOIA memorandum and FOIA Guidelines in order to ensure a presumption of openness. Specifically, members of our team have attended:

  • FOIA for Attorneys and Access Professionals
  • DOJ OIP Sunshine Week 2017 Celebration
  • American Society of Access Professionals Conference
  • DOJ OIP Chief FOIA Officer Council Meeting

Our distinct process to review records for discretionary release includes analyzing each requested document for potential discretionary releases when FOIA exemptions may be applied. In addition, MCC pursues a policy of proactive disclosure to ensure information is generally accessible to the public without the need to submit a FOIA request. MCC seeks to release all information it possibly can in accordance with the FOIA and its policy of openness.

MCC has identified a few areas which are being corrected to improve the overall efficiency of the program, this includes improving developing a fee tracking system to ensure that requesters are charged fees where appropriate.