WASHINGTON — Federal agencies are struggling to keep up with the growing number of requests for public information, raising questions in Congress about the Obama administration’s stance on transparency.
The backlog of unfulfilled requests for documents has doubled since President Obama took office in 2009, according to a recent report by the Justice Department. The number of requests also has spiked.
‘‘The president has committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government,’’ said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, ‘‘but that’s not the case’’ when it comes to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
His committee wrapped up two days of hearings on the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, backlog Wednesday, with some Republican members chastising federal officials responsible for disclosing public information.
‘‘You’re part of the problem,’’ said Representative Jody Hice, Republican of Georgia.
Officials from the departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, and Treasury testified, as did an IRS official.
Several Democrats came to their defense, noting that budget cuts have left fewer workers to process the requests.
‘‘Logic tells you that when you have less people and you’ve got more demand, you’re going to have problems,’’ said Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat.
The backlog of requests went from 77,000 in 2009 to nearly 160,000 last year, according to the Justice Department report. The increase coincided with a jump in requests for information, which went from almost 558,000 in 2009 to more than 714,000 last year.
At the same time, the number of staff working full time on information requests dropped from a high of 4,400 in 2011 to about 3,800 in 2014.
Melanie Ann Pustay, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy, said the administration has improved training and made some progress.
‘‘First, the majority of agencies — 72 out of 100 — were able to maintain low backlogs of fewer than 100 requests,’’ Pustay said. ‘‘Notably, 59 of these agencies had a backlog of less than 20 requests, including 29 that reported having no backlog at all.’’
Agencies with a backlog of more than 1,000 requests were required to come up with a plan to reduce them, she said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest chided Congress for exempting its records from the law.
‘‘In the last fiscal year, the administration processed 647,000 FOIA requests that we received from the public,’’ Earnest said. ‘‘I would note that that is 647,000 more FOIA requests than were processed by the United States Congress.’’