Justice guides agencies through e-gov

"Legal Considerations in Designing and Implementing Electronic Processes:A Guide for Federal Agencies"

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The Justice Department has drafted a report that guides federal agencies through the legal issues they face in delivering services electronically.

Justice developed the guide in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies as part of the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, Congress' mandate to eliminate paper processes wherever possible by 2003.

The report notes that significant legal issues could arise if new electronic processes do not fully meet the objectives of the paper systems they are to replace. New processes could, for example, weaken an agency's position in litigation involving recovering loans or grants or enforcing regulatory requirements, the report states.

The report calls for officials to ask themselves a number of questions as they convert agency services to electronic processes, including:

    * Will important transaction data — such as dates, content, identification and the intent of parties — be retained and available regardless of any changes to computer hardware or software?

    * Will the transactions hold up legally?

    * Will agency use of electronic processes comply with existing laws governing privacy, confidentiality, recordkeeping and accessibility to persons with disabilities?

Justice released the report on its Web site Dec. 14.

In a Nov. 22 memo to federal department leaders that accompanies the report, Attorney General Janet Reno said GPEA is "an important tool" in helping agencies move toward improved customer service and efficiencies through information technology.

"At the same time, creating a more accessible and efficient government requires us to maintain public confidence in the security and reliability of the government's electronic transactions, processes and systems," she said.

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