8:30 am, May 27, 2015

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  • EPA's proposed portal must be examined more closely
    David Kruger, AINS VP
    The proposed EPA portal must be examined more critically— the EPA is spending taxpayer dollars to develop software that is already available in the private sector and is widely deployed within the Federal government. PAL Web Portal (http://www.palwebportal.com/), a FOIA web portal by which requesters can submit, track, and receive their FOIA requests online, already exists and is in use at several Federal agencies. Produced by AINS, the PAL Web Portal was developed as a solution to streamline request submission, document delivery and communication between requesters and agencies and provide a public reading room on which agencies can proactively post frequently requested documents. PAL Web Portal integrates with FOIAXpress (http://ains.com/foiaxpress/), the leading electronic FOIA management system in use by over 180 government agencies and offices, to provide further request processing efficiency (the EPA portal has not addressed how it will integrate with existing agency systems). In addition, for most departments and agencies the proposed EPA portal would be a redundant system, creating an unnecessary middleman between the requester and the responsive agency. Lines of authority, accountability and liability among agencies have not been addressed which could lead to interagency confusion and conflict—further slowing the FOIA process. Further, the Regulations.gov system, the infrastructure on which the proposed EPA portal is based, has been criticized by open government advocates as “confusing and user-unfriendly.” EPA’s development of this proposed portal, despite existing private sector solutions, raises concerns as government software has been proven to be more unstable and error-prone (http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/03/13/study-confirms-governments-produce-the-buggiest-software/ ) than private sector solutions. We ask that FOIA advocacy and watch dog groups take a closer look at the proposed EPA portal’s implications as well as the currently available private sector solutions that provide equivalent functionality at a fraction of the estimated cost.
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