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Open Government Efforts Receive Mixed Grade

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The lofty aim of open government and government transparency, a rhetorical hallmark of the Obama White House, is getting some not-so-kind reviews two years in.

The mid-term evaluation and reflection comes as a confluence of factors come to a head: congressional oversight hearings, two investigative reports and a government watchdog report all on the topic of government transparency.

All not to mention that this is Sunshine Week — a national initiative to promote and draw attention to freedom of information and open government.

House oversight subcommittee hearings last week highlighted the “slow go” in open government goals, Federal Times reported.

For example,  while federal agencies and departments were mandated to create open government plans and post information to them, critics contend there is lack of usable information on sites, such as data.gov

Controller of the Office of Management and Budget Danny Werfel, who’s in charge of OMB’s federal financial management, offered optimism for the future of open gov, though. The process will improve, he said, with time.

“It’s an evolving process,” he told the committee, according to Federal Times. “We will get better and better at this as we go.”

But, this week the administration’s open gov efforts continued to get hard knocks.

First, the Washington Post reported on a George Washington University and Knight Foundation report revealing that just more than half of agencies are as responsive toward Freedom of Information Act requests as the administration would like.

Of 90 FOIA-prepared agencies and departments, 49 fully complied with study’s requests, according to the Post report. However, while that is not exactly a passing grade, it is a significant jump from last year, when a mere 13 of the 90 agencies complied.

Overall, more people requested information from the government under FOIA’s auspices — 544,360, according to an AP investigation.

However, according to that same report, the government responded to more than 12,000 fewer of those requests.

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office released a report Tuesday revealing that while the government has made strides to ensure data posted on the IT Dashboard, which measures federal IT investment, is accurate, much work remains.

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