The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently refused a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Project On Government Oversight asking for government charge card policies and records. OMB refused the request in its entirety, claiming that the information was “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency,” an exception from FOIA.
The OMB oversees executive agencies, providing oversight and management, including review of the programs agencies have in place to monitor charge card abuses. The Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 required government agencies to report instances of charge card abuse and the procedures the agency had in place to prevent future misconduct. In February, POGO submitted a FOIA request to OMB, asking for multiple types of documents that are required by law: charge-card management plans from all agencies OMB oversees, Joint Purchase Reports, Integrated Card Violation Reports, and supporting documents for both reports including summaries of charge card misuse and any personnel actions taken as a result.
OMB denied POGO’s request for the records because they claimed that the documents were “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency” and that the information might be “exploited for criminal purposes.” POGO will be appealing that decision because we feel strongly that the public deserves to know about misuse of government funds and what is being done to prevent further abuses, especially in the purchase card program, which is prone to fraudulent spending.
POGO is not the only entity having difficulty getting information from the government. We have discussed how the press has been having difficulty obtaining information through FOIA and through other avenues, and how, when responses are received, they are often delayed or heavily redacted. POGO encourages the Administration and all federal agencies to improve public access to government information, and to stop frustrating the purposes of FOIA.