- Introduction to OPRAmachine
- Making requests
- Your privacy
- OPRA custodians
- About the software
- API for developers
- Advanced search
If your question isn't answered here, or you just wanted to let us know something about the site, contact us.
You may also want to see our documentation and FAQ website.
Ask the community your OPRA questions in our NJ OPRA Facebook group.
Making requests #
It can be hard to untangle government's complicated structure, and work out who holds the information that you want. Here are a few tips:
- Browse or search OPRAmachine looking for similar requests to yours.
- When you've found an authority you think might have the information, use the "home page" link on the right hand side of their page to check what they do on their website.
- Contact the authority by phone or email to ask if they hold the kind of information you're after.
- Don't worry excessively about getting the right authority. If you get it wrong, they ought to advise you who to make the request to instead.
- If you've got a thorny case, please contact us for help.
- You're missing the public authority that I want to request from! #
Please contact us with the name of the public authority and, if you can find it, their contact email address for Freedom of Information requests.
If you'd like to help add a whole category of public authority to the site, we'd love to hear from you too.
OPRAmachine lets you make requests for information to a range of organisations:
- Those formally subject to OPRA
- Those which voluntarily comply with OPRA
- Those which aren't subject to the Act but we think should be, on grounds such as them having significant public responsibilities.
- Why must I keep my request focused?#
Please put in your request only what is needed so that someone can easily identify what information you are asking for. Please do not include any of the following:
- arguments about your cause
- statements that could defame or insult others
If you want information to support an argument or campaign, Freedom of Information is a powerful tool. Although you may not use this site to run your campaign, we encourage you to use it to get the information you need. We also encourage to run your campaign elsewhere - one effective and very easy way is to start your own blog. You are welcome to link to your campaign from this site in an annotation to your request (you can make annotations after submitting the request).
- Does it cost me anything to make a request?#
Making an OPRA request is nearly always free.
Authorities often include unnecessary, scary, boilerplate in acknowledgement messages saying they "may" charge a fee. Ignore such notices. They hardly ever will actually charge a fee. If they do, they can only charge you if you have specifically agreed in advance to pay. More details from the GRC about when fees can be charged.
- How quickly will I get a response? #
By law, public authorities must respond within 7 business days to requests.
Even if they are not prompt, in nearly all cases they must respond within 7 business days or request an extension. If you had to clarify your request, or they are a school, or one or two other cases, then they may have more time (full details).
OPRAmachine will email you if you don't get a timely response. You can then send the public authority a message to remind them, and tell them if they are breaking the law.
- What if I never get a response?#
There are several things you can do if you never get a response.
- Sometimes there has been a genuine problem and the authority never received the request. It is worth telephoning the authority and politely checking that they received the request. It was sent to them by email.
- If they have not received it, the problem is most likely due to "spam filters". Refer the authority to the measures in the answer 'I can see a request on OPRAmachine, but we never got it by email!' in the OPRA custodians section of this help.
- If you're still having no luck, then you can ask for an internal review, and then complain to the Information Commissioner about the authority. Read our page 'Unhappy about the response you got?'.
- What if I'm not satisfied with the response? #
- If you didn't get the information you asked for, or you didn't get it in time, then read our page 'Unhappy about the response you got?'.
- Can you tell me more of the nitty gritty about the process of making requests? #
Have a look at the Citizen’s Guide to the Open Public Records Act on the Government Records Council's website.
- Can I request information about myself? #
No. Requests made using OPRAmachine are public, made under the Open Public Records Act, and cannot help you find information about a private individual.
If you see that somebody has included personal information, perhaps unwittingly, in a request, please contact us immediately so we can remove it.
- I'd like to keep my request secret! (At least until I publish my story) #
OPRAmachine is currently only designed for public requests. All responses that we receive are automatically published on the website for anyone to read.
You should contact the public authority directly if you would like to make a request in private. If you're interested in buying a system which helps you manage OPRA requests in secret, then contact us.
- Can I make the same to request to lots of authorities, e.g. all councils? #
- We ask you to first send a test version of your request to a few authorities. Their responses will help you improve the wording of your request, so that you get the best information when you send the request to all of the authorities. There is currently no automated system for sending the request to the other authorities, you must copy and paste it by hand.
- I made a request off the site, how do I upload it to the archive?#
- OPRAmachine is an archive of requests made through the site, and does not try to be an archive of all OPRA requests. We'll never support uploading other requests. For one thing, we wouldn't be able to verify that other responses actually came from the authority. If this really matters to you, you can always make the same request again via OPRAmachine.
- How do you moderate request annotations? #
Annotations on OPRAmachine are to help people get the information they want, or to give them pointers to places they can go to help them act on it. We reserve the right to remove anything else.
Endless, political discussions are not allowed. Post a link to a suitable forum or campaign site elsewhere.
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