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Disclosure of Information Regulations

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Small Business Administration (SBA).

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

SBA is adopting its proposed regulations implementing the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (EFOIA) and updating SBA's FOIA regulations to conform to current law and procedure. SBA's amended regulations will make more information available electronically, give SBA more time to respond to certain requests, and increase processing fees to more accurately reflect the full cost of search and document review.

DATES:

This rule is effective on November 13, 2003.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Kitty Higgins, Paralegal Specialist, Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOI/PA) Office, at 202-401-8203 or foia@sba.gov.

Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an alternate format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer diskette) upon request to the contact person listed in the preceding paragraph.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

On September 11, 2002, SBA issued a proposed rule to amend its Disclosure of Information regulations (13 CFR part 102, Subpart A) based on the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (EFOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(2), 67 FR 57539. EFOIA includes provisions authorizing or requiring agencies to promulgate regulations Start Printed Page 59092implementing certain EFOIA statutory requirements, including the aggregation of FOIA requests, and the expedited processing of FOIA requests. In addition, EFOIA changes the time limit for responding to a FOIA request from ten to twenty working days, and includes provisions regarding the availability of documents in electronic form, the treatment of electronic records, and the establishment of “electronic reading rooms.” This final rule will revise SBA's FOIA regulations to comply with EFOIA and to reflect current SBA FOIA procedures and practices. It also increases the amount SBA can charge for search and review time to $30 per hour.

The Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOI/PA) Office received one comment, which was not substantive. The commenter suggested that the regulations “should convey the sense of openness associated with the FOIA.” The commenter also suggested that the regulations “should require SBA's FOIA Office to post in its electronic reading room* * *those documents which have been released 5 or more times and are likely to be requested again* * *.” SBA's regulations are in compliance with both the EFOIA and Department of Justice guidelines. In addition, there is a “Frequently Requested Records” section in the electronic reading room.

Compliance With Executive Orders 12866, 12988, and 13132, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612), and the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Ch. 35)

The Office of Management and Budget has determined that this rule is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review. These amendments are not likely to have an annual economic effect of $100 million or more, result in a major increase in costs or prices, or have a significant adverse effect on competition or the U.S. economy. Instead, these changes will make SBA's FOIA program more streamlined and easier for the public to understand and use.

SBA has determined that this final rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities within the meaning of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601-612. Under the FOIA, agencies may recover only the direct costs of searching for, reviewing, and duplicating the records processed for requesters. Thus, fees assessed by SBA are nominal.

For the purpose of the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. Ch. 35, SBA has determined that this rule would not impose new reporting or record keeping requirements.

For purposes of Executive Order 13132, SBA has determined that this rule does not have any federalism implications warranting the preparation of a Federalism Assessment.

For purposes of Executive Order 12988, SBA has determined that this rule is drafted, to the extent practicable, in accordance with the standards set forth in that order.

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List of Subjects in 13 CFR Part 102

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For the reasons set forth in the preamble, amend part 102 of title 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:

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PART 102—RECORD DISCLOSURE AND PRIVACY

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1. The authority citation for part 102 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 5 U.S.C. 552 and 552a; 31 U.S.C. 1 et seq. and 67 et seq.; 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.; E. O. 12600, 3 CFR, 1987 Comp., p. 235.

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2. Revise Subpart A of part 102 to read as follows:

End Amendment Part
Subpart A—Disclosure of Information
102.1
General provisions.
102.2
Public reading rooms.
102.3
Requirements pertaining to the submission of requests.
102.4
Timing of responses to requests.
102.5
Responses to requests.
102.6
Fees.
102.7
Business information.
102.8
Appeals.
102.9
Public Index.

Subpart A—Disclosure of Information

General provisions.

This subpart describes the procedures that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) follows for responding to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. 552).

Public reading rooms.

(a) SBA maintains a public reading room in the Headquarters Reference Library at 409 3rd St., SW., Suite 5000, Washington, DC 20416 where you may read and copy the following:

(1) Final SBA opinions and orders issued by the Office of Hearings and Appeals in adjudicating a case,

(2) Official non-privileged policy statements, opinions, or interpretations,

(3) Standard operating procedures affecting members of the public,

(4) Records SBA has released in response to previous FOIA requests which, because of their subject matter, SBA determines are likely to be requested again, and

(5) An index of the records referred to under paragraph (a)(4) of this section.

(b) The records described in paragraph (a) of this section are available in the SBA Online Reading Room at http://www.sba.gov/​library/​.

(c) Reading room records created on or after November 1, 1996 are available electronically.

Requirements pertaining to the submission of requests.

(a) You may make a request for SBA records by writing directly to the program or field office that maintains the records, or to the Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOI/PA) Office by mail to 409 3rd St., SW., Washington, DC 20416 or fax to 202-205-7059 or e-mail to foia@sba.gov. The office receiving your request will forward it to the correct office. The correct office will consider your request to be complete only when you:

(1) Describe the records sought in enough detail for an Agency employee to locate the records with a reasonable amount of effort;

(2) Agree to pay applicable fees pursuant to § 102.6, unless you seek a waiver of fees; and

(3) Make an advance payment if either the correct office estimates the fees will exceed $250 or you owe for past FOIA fees. If you owe past due FOIA fees, you must pay the estimated amount, plus any past due charges and interest.

(b) If you make a request on behalf of another person for information pertaining to that person, your request must include an authorization signed by the latter, allowing SBA to release such information to you.

(c) To make a Privacy Act request for records about yourself, you must follow the procedures detailed in § 102.34(b) of Subpart B.

Timing of responses to requests.

(a) In general. Subject to paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, once the correct office receives your complete request, that office must respond within 20 working days unless that office notifies you in writing that the time is extended by an additional 10 working days for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments separate from the office processing the request;

(2) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request; or Start Printed Page 59093

(3) The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein.

(b) Additional time. Where an extension of more than ten working days will be necessary due to exceptional circumstances, the correct office will give the requester an opportunity to modify the request so it may be processed within the usual time limits in paragraph (a) of this section, or to arrange an alternative time period for processing the request or a modified request.

(c) Expedited processing. (1) SBA will give expedited processing to requests and appeals upon written request, if one of the following conditions is met:

(i) You demonstrate someone's life or physical safety will be in imminent danger if SBA does not expedite its response to your request; or

(ii) You are a news media representative (as defined in § 102.6(b)(8)) who demonstrates an urgent need to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal government activity.

(2) You must provide a written statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief, explaining in detail one of these circumstances of “compelling need” and submit it to the correct office. Within 10 working days of its receipt of such a statement, or sooner, if SBA concludes that circumstances warrant, that office will notify you of its decision whether or not to grant expedited processing. If expedited processing is granted, the request shall be given priority and processed as soon as practicable. If an expedited processing request is denied, an appeal may be submitted which will be acted on expeditiously.

(d) Multiple requests. Where an office believes that multiple requests submitted by a requester, or by a group of collaborating requesters, constitute a single request that would otherwise involve unusual circumstances, and the requests involve clearly related matters, they will be aggregated for processing.

Responses to requests.

Within the time limits described in § 102.4, SBA will respond to your request in writing. SBA's response will do one or more of the following:

(a) Advise you that SBA is releasing the requested documents;

(b) Explain why SBA has decided not to give you all or some of the records requested, citing specific FOIA exemptions where applicable and noting the number of pages withheld (except where noting the number of pages withheld would harm an interest protected by an exemption), and explain how to appeal that decision;

(c) Provide a cost estimate or bill you for the actual fee, less any advance payment you have made. SBA will not provide any records until payment in full is received; and/or

(d) Advise you that SBA will refer your request for records generated by another Federal agency to that agency for proper processing.

Fees.

(a) In general. SBA will charge fees for processing requests as outlined in this section. Fees must be paid by check or money order made payable to SBA.

(b) Definitions and applicable fees. For purposes of this section:

(1) Direct costs means those expenses that SBA actually incurs in searching for and duplicating (and, in the case of commercial use requesters, reviewing) documents in response to an FOIA request. Direct costs include the salary of the employee performing the work and the cost of operating duplication machinery.

(2) Search means the process of looking for and retrieving records responsive to a request. It includes page-by-page or line-by-line identification of information within records and also includes reasonable efforts to locate and retrieve information from records maintained in electronic form or format. SBA may charge search fees even if they fail to locate records or if records located are determined to be exempt from disclosure. Search fees are $30 per hour.

(3) Duplication means the making of a copy of a record. Copies can take the form of paper, microfilm, audiovisual materials, or electronic records (for example, magnetic tape or disk), among others. SBA will charge $.10 per page for photocopy duplication and the actual cost for other methods. SBA will honor a requester's specified preference of form or format of disclosure if the record is readily reproducible with reasonable efforts in the requested form or format by the office responding to the request.

(4) Review refers to the examination of documents responsive to a request in order to determine whether any portion of it is exempt from disclosure. It includes processing any record for disclosure, e.g., all necessary redaction and preparation for disclosure. It also includes time spent considering any formal objection to disclosure made by a business submitter under § 102.7, but does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions. Review costs are recoverable even if a record is ultimately not disclosed. Only commercial use requesters are assessed review costs. Review costs are $30 per hour.

(5) A commercial use request refers to a request from or on behalf of a person who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers his or her commercial, trade or profit interests, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. When it appears the requester will put the requested records to a commercial use, either because of the nature of the request itself or where SBA has reasonable cause to doubt a requester's stated use, SBA will seek additional clarification. SBA will charge commercial use requesters the full direct costs of searching for, reviewing for release, and duplicating the records sought.

(6) Educational institution means a state-certified preschool, elementary or secondary school; an accredited college or university; an accredited institution of professional education; or any accredited or state-certified institution of vocational education that operates a program of scholarly research. An educational institution requester must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scholarly research. SBA will provide documents to requesters in this category for the cost of reproduction alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages.

(7) Noncommercial scientific institution means an institution that is not operated on a commercial basis, and that is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry. A noncommercial scientific institution requester must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further scientific research. SBA will charge noncommercial scientific institution requesters for the cost of reproduction alone after the first 100 pages.

(8) A representative of the news media is a requester actively gathering information for one or more news media who:

(i) Is employed by a news medium or Start Printed Page 59094

(ii) Has a reasonable expectation of selling the information obtained to one or more news media. A news medium is an entity organized and operated to distribute information to the general public. A news medium may provide information by subscription and may target its dissemination to a narrow section of the general public so long as any member of the general public may purchase information from it. A request for records supporting the news dissemination function of the requester shall not be considered to be for commercial use. A news media requester must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying news medium and that the records are not sought for a commercial use but are sought to further the dissemination of information to the general public. SBA will provide documents to representatives of the news media for the cost of reproduction alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages.

(9) A member of the general public is a requester who does not fit into any of the categories in paragraphs (b)(1) through (8) of this section. SBA will charge requesters in this category search time after the first two hours and duplication after the first 100 pages.

(c) Other charges. SBA will recover the full costs of providing special services, such as certifying that records are true copies or sending copies by other than ordinary mail, to the extent that SBA elects to provide them.

(d) Charging interest. SBA will charge interest on any unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the date of billing. Interest charges will accrue at the maximum rate allowed under 31 U.S.C. 3717. If still unpaid by the 91st day after the billing date, SBA may notify consumer credit reporting agencies of the delinquency and/or take other appropriate action in accordance with law.

(e) Fee waivers or reductions. SBA will furnish responsive records without charge or at a reduced charge when a requester can show that 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 and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

(1) You must submit a request for a fee waiver or reduction to the initial processing office.

(2) On the basis of the information that you provide, the initial processing office will determine whether you meet the fee waiver requirements outlined in this section.

Business information.

(a) In general. Business information provided to SBA from a submitter will only be disclosed in accordance with this section.

(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section:

(1) Business information is commercial or financial information obtained by SBA from a submitter that may arguably be protected from disclosure under Exemption 4 of the FOIA.

(2) Submitter is any person or entity who provides business information, directly or indirectly to SBA.

(c) Designation of business information. Submitters of business information will use reasonable, good-faith efforts to designate, by appropriate markings, either at the time of submission or at a reasonable time thereafter, any portions of their submissions that they consider to be protected from disclosure under Exemption 4 of the FOIA. Designations will expire ten years after the date of the submission unless the submitter requests, and provides justification for, a longer designation period.

(d) Notice to submitters. SBA will provide a submitter with written notice of a FOIA request or administrative appeal that seeks its business information whenever SBA intends to release that information. The notice will either describe the business information or include copies of the records in the form SBA proposes to release them. SBA will also advise the requester that the submitter is being given the opportunity to object to any proposed disclosure. When notification of a voluminous number of submitters is required, SBA may post or publish such a notice in a place reasonably likely to accomplish notice.

(e) Opportunity to object to disclosure. SBA will give the submitter ten working days from the date of the written notice to submit a detailed written statement specifying all grounds upon which disclosure is opposed. A reasonable extension of time may be granted by the correct office upon good cause shown by the submitter. The submitter's statement must demonstrate why it believes information is a trade secret or commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential. If a submitter fails to timely respond to the notice, such failure will be deemed a waiver by the submitter of any objection to the disclosure of the information. Information provided by a submitter under this paragraph may itself be subject to disclosure under the FOIA.

(f) Notice of intent to disclose. SBA will consider a submitter's objections and specific grounds for nondisclosure in accordance with paragraph (e) of this section in deciding whether to disclose business information. If SBA decides to disclose business information despite the objection of a submitter, SBA will give the submitter written notice, advising the submitter what will be disclosed, and that such disclosure will occur within 10 working days from the date of the notice.

Appeals.

(a) If you are dissatisfied with SBA's response to your request, you may appeal an adverse determination denying your request, in any respect, to the Chief, FOI/PA Office, 409 Third St., SW., Washington, DC 20416.

(b) The Chief must receive your signed, written appeal within 60 calendar days of the date of the SBA determination from which you are appealing.

(c) You should include as much information as possible, i.e., identifying the records not disclosed, the reason(s) a fee should be waived, or the reason(s) a request should be expedited. You must identify the deciding official and his/her office location.

(d) The Chief will decide your appeal unless the Chief originally made the determination you are appealing. In that case, the Assistant Administrator for Hearings and Appeals will decide your appeal.

(e) If SBA upholds the initial adverse determination, SBA will tell you why the decision has been upheld and tell you how to obtain judicial review of the decision.

Public Index.

(a) The Public Index is a document that provides identifying information about official documents that SBA has issued.

(b) SBA has administratively determined, as permitted by FOIA, that periodic publication and distribution of the Public Index is unnecessary and impracticable.

(c) The Public Index is an appendix to SBA Standard Operating Procedure 40 03. You can obtain the latest edition of SOP 40 03 from SBA's Online Reading Room at http://www.sba.gov/​library or by requesting it from any SBA office.

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Dated: October 1, 2003.

Hector V. Barreto,

Administrator.

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[FR Doc. 03-25878 Filed 10-10-03; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8025-01-P