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Performance Audit - Inspection of Public Records Act - Citywide

Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests have a significant impact on the City. The City needs to identify cost effective solutions to process IPRA requests.

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Background
The New Mexico State Legislature wanted to ensure that everyone has access to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and created an Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The City of Albuquerque (City) is subject to IPRA and must respond to public records requests in compliance with State Statute. The audit was requested by the Administration and included in the approved fiscal year (FY) 2014 audit plan.

The City Clerk is the City’s Chief Records Custodian and is responsible for the coordination of Public Records requests, and overseeing IPRA compliance by Departmental Record Custodians (Custodians).  Responding to IPRA requests requires research, review, and redaction of City records, which takes City employees away from their primary duties.  In accordance with IPRA, the City cannot charge actual resource costs related to determining if a record is subject to disclosure; however, the City may charge a requester for certain allowed resource costs associated with record reproduction.

The audit evaluated the City’s process and resource impact for fulfilling IPRA requests.  The audit is the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of IPRA on municipalities in New Mexico.  As New Mexico’s largest municipality, Albuquerque is experiencing the greatest impact related to IPRA compliance.

Findings
During the 18-month audit period, IPRA compliance cost the City an estimated $1.5 million to respond to an estimated 8,814 requests.  The actual number of requests may be significantly different because the City does not have a consistent citywide system for tracking requests.  Currently, City departments use various methods for tracking requests, resulting in incomplete and inconsistent data.  To improve compliance, the City should implement a citywide tracking system to capture information about IPRA requests.  

Capturing accurate and complete IPRA request data will not only provide accurate information on the impact of responding to IPRA requests, but will also allow the City to perform analyses to identify ways to decrease the number of IPRA requests and increase efficiency.  For example, frequently requested information can be made available to the public through the City’s Open Data Portal.  Direct access to public information will reduce City staff time to retrieve and duplicate records, and increase responsiveness to the public.  

The City should develop a current and consistent process to reduce the risk of violating IPRA regulations. City procedures do not incorporate regulatory revisions, and required training sessions to ensure the consistent application of IPRA processes are not held.  Updates to all City regulations and training materials, along with on-demand training, will allow the City to communicate the requirements for processing IPRA requests to City Custodians.

The City ultimately completed 97 percent of the requests for records tested in a random sample; however, some IPRA requirements including timeliness were not met. The City Clerk should ensure that requests are completed in accordance with IPRA regulations.

The future impact to the City for responding to IPRA requests is unpredictable as the number and complexity of the requests determines the ultimate impact. However, it is unlikely that the number of IPRA requests and associated impacts will decrease in the near future.