Magazine article Information Management

GAO: NARA Not Doing Its Job

Magazine article Information Management

GAO: NARA Not Doing Its Job

Article excerpt

U.S. agencies are not complying with federal laws on electronic record preservation, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has done little to ensure that agencies properly preserve e-mail, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

According to the July report, the number of agencies NARA has advised on records management has dropped by more than 90 percent in the past five years. In fact, although NARA is responsible for ensuring that other agencies properly store e-mail, it stopped making inspections after President George W. Bush took office in 2001, the report shows.

In the meantime, the government's use of e-mail has increased dramatically, and agencies are struggling to determine which e-mails to delete, which to preserve as public records, and how to store them, according to The Washington Post.

Government investigators looked at four agencies: the Homeland Security Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They found that all four used an inefficient, insecure, and archaic process of printing e-marls and storing them in paper form. Only one agency, the EPA, was converting to an electronic system to store e-mail records, the study found.

The GAO also examined electronic records kept by 15 senior officials at the four agencies and found that only seven complied with all federal requirements governing the preservation of electronic records, but eight did not consistently meet them.

Although it has sponsored six studies of agency recordkeeping since 2003, NARA has not conducted any inspections since 2000. The Archives also seriously curtailed its "targeted assistance" efforts to help agencies improve their records processes. In 2002, it completed 76 such projects; last year it completed none, the GAO found.

"Without a consistent oversight program that provides it with a government-wide perspective, NARA has limited assurance that agencies are appropriately managing the records in their custody, increasing the risk that important records will be lost" the GAO said.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

According to The Washington Post, NARA officials told GAO investigators that inspections required too much time and money. …

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