State aims to speed up public information requests

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Mar 24 2014 07:04:58 PM HST
Updated On: Mar 24 2014 10:44:48 PM HST

A new report shows just how quickly state agencies respond when you request information.

HONOLULU -

A new report shows just how quickly state agencies respond when residents request information.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' report

When it comes to getting answers from government agencies, that information can sometimes seem like the slow lane on the information super-highway.

"It might be the agency forgot it, it fell between the cracks," said Cheryl Kakazu, with the Park Office of Information Practices.

The state's Uniform Information Practices Act is supposed to speed that up.

When people send in specific requests for records from the state or county, the clock starts ticking for state agencies to respond.

"What they're supposed to do, in 10 work days, is stating they're going to grant it or deny it and if they are going to deny it -- what's the reason, or they might say they don't have the record," Kakazu said.

In the past nine months, there have been more than 3,400 such requests.

About 75 percent of them were fully or partially granted, which means many got the answer they were looking for.

"Nintey-nine percent of them were completed in about eight days time," Kakazu said.

While searching and copying those records cost the state more than $33,000, various exemptions reduced fees for residents.

"Most requesters paid very little, if anything. It might have amounted to $1.60 for each request that was granted and they got their answer in about eight days," Kakazu said.

When a request is denied, residents can request the Office of Information Practices to look into their case. If the attorneys decide the information should be released, they will contact the state agency themselves.

Much of their time is taken up by what could be called "repeat requesters," -- people who ask for the same or similar information over and over again.

"Thirty-eight percent of our cases are just from one individual, a couple, and a group of inmates," Kakazu said.

That adds to the backlog at OIP, and it means complex cases from 2012 are not getting resolved until two years later.

Another problem is not all state agencies are even logging their information request reports, even though they are required to, because there is no penalty if they don't.

County agencies are also required to release requested information to residents, but right now there is no state record of them, along with the number of formal requests resolved.

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