WASHINGTON — Independent watchdog reviews show that the Obama administration is still struggling in its fifth year to develop the most transparent government in U.S. history, a pledge President Baraack Obama made on his first day in office.
The Center for Effective Government handed out failing grades to seven of the 15 agencies it examined for its annual government transparency report card, which the group released Monday.
The State Department performed worst, finishing with a score of 37 percent. The Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon followed with grades of 51 percent. The top performers included the Social Security Administration (83 percent), the Justice Department (81 percent) and the Environmental Protection Agency (78 percent).
The scores measured performance in processing requests, establishing rules for answering the requests and creating easy-to-use websites.
“There are agencies out there doing great with processing, so all of this is possible,” said Sean Moulton, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) expert with the Center for Effective Government. “The real problem is getting agencies to be consistent and learn from each other about how to do a better job.”
An Associated Press analysis of federal data found that the Obama administration got more secretive last year, censoring or denying FOIA access to government files more than at any time in the president’s tenure.
The administration has also cited more legal exceptions to justify withholding materials and refused to turn over more files quickly when they are considered newsworthy, and most agencies took longer to answer records requests, according to the AP study.
On a positive note, the analysis showed that the administration reduced the number of old requests and waived copying fees more often last year.