Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Launches Major Overhaul to Modernize its Public Records Request System

Like many agencies across the nation, Oregon DEQ’s public records request system was a combination of manual and semi-automated processes — decentralized and lacking consistency. Moving requests from intake through the release of records was tedious and time-consuming.

In a press release from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) published on KTVZ.com, the agency set the stage: “Responding to records requests is a top priority, and DEQ is modernizing to better serve the public.”

Eliminating Manual Steps

The agency had an online web form for request intake, but everything after that was a series of manual steps — starting with manual copy/paste of requests from their web form into a Sharepoint site. From there, requests were manually assigned to the appropriate staff or department via email; and those folks had to contend with a clunky FTP site for sharing internal review documents. File sizes were limited on the FTP, so it was common to have to take time to copy files to physical storage media like DVDs and thumb drives.  All these extra steps were eliminated when they brought in their new Public Records Request Management solution from GovQA.

In the new system, we eliminated manual entry of request information and manual routing – the GovQA system does this automatically for us now,” explains Leela Yellesetty, Oregon DEQ Records Officer.  “We also eliminated inconsistencies in messaging to requesters because we now use GovQA’s prepared response templates.  And we get automated deadline reminders and tracking of due dates — including the ability to pause the clock when awaiting requester response.”  

Centralizing & Standardizing

When it comes to transmission and sharing of review files and responsive documents amongst DEQ staff, GovQA solves even more pain points.  Prior to GovQA, communications were scattered in various staff mailboxes and had to be manually moved to a folder on the shared drive due to space limitations on their Sharepoint site.  The GovQA platform centralized all request-related documentation in one place — in compliance with retention requirements.  

Improved Payments Collection Tools

A key motivator for moving to GovQA was the fact that the fee estimate and invoicing tool the DEQ had been using (InfoPath forms) was no longer being supported.  “The ability to take online payments with GovQA was a huge plus — not just for requesters…but for the DEQ accounting team as well!” See how your agency can recoup costs with GovQA too, using our online ROI calculator.

Easier Reporting

GovQA has a built-in redaction module that automatically logs exemption citations,” explains Yellesetty. “And custom views and dashboards make it easy for managers and central records to monitor request status.” But, it’s the consistent data collection that really simplifies the DEQ’s required reporting on quarterly requests statistics.  “We now have the ability to run a range of reports on various request metrics.” 

Better for Requesters, Too!

Sharing documents with requesters is easier too, Yellesetty points out. “Now we have the ability to post documents directly on the GovQA portal.” And with approximately 5,000 requests/year; the DEQ also appreciates that GovQA’s patented deflection technology guides requesters to self-service whenever possible.  “The  ability to publicly post requested records — and deflect requests for these and other online documents — will help us reduce the overall number of requests.”

In the press release shared on KTVZ, the Oregon DEQ mentions several other benefits to their requester community, including:

  • Personalized online accounts
  • View details, status, and message history for all requests and download the documents directly once posted.
  • Online fee payments
  • Email notifications when there are new messages or documents available
  • Searchable public records archive for previously requested records

GovQA does it all for the Oregon DEQ.  One platform replaces so many fragmented, ineffective manual processes and tools:

Before

After

Public Records Portal Launched In 2020

View Their Portal Here