Two Studies Outline Shortcomings in Federal Records Management Practices

    Jun 10, 2015

    Two recently released reports, one by a government watchdog agency and the other by a storage and information management company, show significant gaps in U.S. federal agencies ability to meet electronic recordkeeping requirements. 

    At the request of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent, nonpartisan Congressional agency that investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars and makes recommendations for improving the performance and accountability of the government, issued a study on May 14 examining the implementation of the Managing Government Records Directive.  That directive, issued jointly by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), establishes deadlines for federal agencies to meet new requirements for managing electronic government records.

    According to the GAO, the majority of the largest departments and agencies are making progress toward addressing the directive’s seven requirements. However, “not all agencies had designated Senior Agency Officials at the assistant secretary level; reported to NARA on how they planned to manage permanent electronic records, including e-mails; identified and reported on permanent records that have been in existence for 30 years or more; or identified unscheduled records,” the report noted.

    The report also singled out the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy for not fully implementing the directive’s requirements to develop records management training for all employees and to ensure that all agency records officers hold training certificates from NARA.

    Despite the progress reported by the GAO, a new survey of federal employees involved in records management found that they lack confidence in their agency’s records management practices. The blind online survey was conducted by market research company Market Connections Inc. at the request of Iron Mountain Inc., a leading provider of storage and information management services.

    Of the federal employees surveyed, 85% said they are not fully convinced current records management practices are meeting the needs of their agency, and only one-third said they are very confident their agency’s records are not at risk as a result of omissions in records management policies and practices. In addition, only half of respondents said they engage at least monthly with their agency’s information technology personnel regarding records policies and practices.

    “The survey confirms what we have been hearing from federal practitioners,” said Liz Icenogle, ARMA International’s director of government relations. “It is difficult for them to get their superiors to pay attention to the importance of records management, and they lack the authority and resources to address the enormous challenge of implementing the Managing Government Records Directive.”

    In a statement provided to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as part of that panel’s June 2 hearing on “Ensuring Transparency through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” ARMA President Fred Pulzello, IGP, CRM, urged the committee to provide federal records managers with “the tools, resources, and authorities they need to be successful in meeting their legal and regulatory responsibilities with regard to managing information in the digital age.”

    The Washington Policy Brief is an online advisory that contains brief summaries of recent legislative and regulatory issues that may affect the records and information management profession. Further information about the issue is accessed by clicking on the link provided at the end of each summary.


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