Search and review costs will be calculated based upon the pay scale of the person conducting the search or review. Duplication costs are assessed for only those documents that ultimately are released in full or denied in part; duplication costs are not assessed for documents denied in full, or referred to originating agencies for direct reply.
Agreement to Pay Applicable Fees
By making a FOIA request, the requester shall be considered to have agreed to pay all applicable fees up to $25.00 unless a fee waiver has been granted. If the DOS-OIG estimates that the search costs will exceed $25.00, the requester shall be so notified. Such notice shall offer the requester the opportunity to confer with DOS-OIG personnel with the object of reformulating the request to meet the requester's needs at a lower cost. The request shall not be processed further unless the requester agrees to pay the estimated fees.
When Fees are Assessed
Fees are generally assessed by DOS-OIG at the conclusion of processing a request. If it is estimated that allowable charges are likely to exceed $250, DOS-OIG may require a requester to make an advanced payment.
Fees Owed in Connection with Prior Requests
Requesters who owe fees incurred in connection with the processing of previous requests should pay the fees owed prior to DOS-OIG processing any new requests. Such requests may be designated "invalid" until payment in full is received.
Requesters may set a limit on the amount that they are willing to pay. If it is anticipated that fees will exceed the fee limit set by the requester, or if in processing the request, fees begin to exceed the requester’s fee limit, DOS-OIG will contact the requester. If the requester has provided a telephone number, DOS-OIG will attempt to call the requester to resolve the matter quickly.
It is recommended that the requester indicates the maximum amount of fees that they are willing to pay with their initial request.
For both manual and computer searches, DOS-OIG will charge the estimated direct cost of each search based on the average current salary rates (including benefits) of the categories of personnel doing the searches.
Review of Records
It is DOS-OIG policy to charge the same hourly rates for review as for searching. Only requesters who are seeking documents for commercial use may be charged for time spent reviewing records to determine whether they are releasable. Charges may be assessed for the initial review only; i.e., the review undertaken the first time DOS-OIG analyzes the applicability of a specific exemption to a particular record or portion of a record.
Search and Review Rates
The categories of personnel who may conduct searches and reviews and the estimated hourly costs based on the average current salary rates (including benefits) for those categories are as follows:
- Administrative/clerical – $21/hour
- Professional – $41/hour
- Executive -- $76/hour
Duplication of Records
Records shall be duplicated at a rate of $0.15 per page.
Fees otherwise chargeable in connection with a request for disclosure of a record shall be waived or reduced where it is determined that disclosure is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
In order to determine whether disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, the Department will consider the following four factors:
- The subject of the request: the subject of the requested records concerns the operations or activities of the government;
- The informative value of the information to be disclosed: the disclosure of the records is “likely to contribute” to an understanding of government operations or activities;
- The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the general public likely to result from disclosure, taking in your ability and intent to disseminate the information to the public; and
- The significance of the contribution to public understanding: whether the disclosure is likely to contribute “significantly” to public understanding of government operations or activities.
In order to determine whether disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester, the Department will consider the following two factors:
- The existence and magnitude of a commercial interest: whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure; and, if so,
- The primary interest in disclosure: whether the magnitude of the identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure.
The Department may refuse to consider waiver or reduction of fees for requesters (persons or organizations) from whom unpaid fees remain owed to the Department for another information access request.