SBA Doesn’t Maintain Correspondence Logs


It seems that there’s no standard way for government agencies to maintain logs of correspondence.

I had sent a FOIA to the Small Business Administration offices in Washington D.C. for their logs of congressional correspondence. SBA forwarded the request to all of its regional offices and departments–they don’t maintain a central log of correspondence. So in the past few days I have received more than a dozen acknowledgement letters and emails from SBA’s regional offices.

Unfortunately, SBA is not is a position to consolidate the material and give us one final response. Essentially, each of the regional offices will treat the FOIA as a separate request which could almost double the number of FOIAs to track. I am talking to few people at SBA to find out if they can collate the information before sending it out.

Also, some of the SBA regional offices have misinterpreted the FOIA and have been replying with the actual letters and not the logs. I talked briefly with a FOIA officer at SBA headquarters and she mentioned that SBA does not keep any log in the form of a database, but only a cover sheet” which is scanned in with the actual letter. Considering this is how SBA tracks their correspondence, I am not sure we will receive any information on spreadsheets that we can feed into a searchable database.

On a more uplifting note, we received our first correspondence log in an excel format from the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday. Not only was their data perfectly organized and easy to understand, but FOIA Coordinator Deborah Johnson at the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations responded to our request within a week, which is quite commendable.

According to Johnson, only two requests for correspondence logs have been made since she started working at the Office in 1994. She said that the EPA maintains a correspondence management system where information is manually entered as and when the letters come in and can be searched using key words.

– Anupama Narayanswamy