USPS has dramatically improved its response to official information requests, part of the organization’s effort to better comply with a law that promotes good government practices.
Since 2014, the Postal Service’s average response time for these requests has dropped 40 percent, while the backlog of information requests has been slashed by 75 percent.
The improvements follow an overhaul of policies and procedures to improve the way USPS complies with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a 1966 law that allows individuals and organizations to request documents, emails and more from federal agencies.
“The Constitution begins with the words ‘We the People’ because the people are at the top of the nation’s organizational chart — and thus the American people are our ultimate bosses,” said Associate General Counsel Michael Elston, who serves as the Postal Service’s chief FOIA officer. “Like any boss, they have a right to know what their subordinates are doing.”
The U.S. Justice Department recently recognized the Postal Service with a Sunshine Week award, a prestigious honor given to agencies that excel at meeting FOIA requests.
In addition to overhauling its policies and procedures, USPS improved training and created a Chief FOIA Officer’s Awards program to recognize employees who help the organization respond promptly and efficiently to FOIA requests.
Elston said the organization’s improved performance is particularly impressive because it comes at a time when FOIA activity is rising: In 2017, USPS received 3,100 information requests, up more than 30 percent from three years earlier.
Esther Karl, a budget specialist at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC, and a recipient of a Chief FOIA Officer’s Award, praised Elston and his team with helping her learn how to better respond to FOIA requests.
“The group has been incredibly supportive and instrumental in assisting me to manage the cases appropriately ensuring my team and I have all the tools we need to respond in a timely manner,” Karl said.
Elston also praised the team.
“I am lucky to work with such a great group of people on our FOIA team, and I am thrilled the Department of Justice has decided to recognize their amazing efforts over the past three years,” he said.