Transparency has been hindered by the inability of agencies to explain to the public what type of records they hold, such as by providing an index and description of major information systems, which is required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), or through the Government Information Locator Systems (GILS) program. As a result, members of the public often do not know which agency has the information they need or how to obtain it. An approach that allows citizens to better identify and describe the type of records they are seeking and, in most cases, access them through an online or publicly available database without filing a FOIA request, would be a major step forward for transparency.
Agencies should be required to develop descriptive indexes of their information holdings that are easy to understand and accessible to the public. To facilitate this process and provide leadership, the Administration should designate a responsible official in each agency to oversee an inventory of information holdings; set a schedule for completion of an inventory process; and direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop a means for presenting indexes to the public. A coordinating and leadership role should be assigned to the office charged with government-wide transparency authority.