Feds are lax in record-keeping, NARA finds

Feds are lax in record-keeping, NARA finds

Because many agency employees are unsure whether the electronic information they create constitutes official records, much of the data fails to make its way to the National Archives and Records Administration, according to a new report. Only records such as case files tend to be well-managed.

Agencies need to look to not only their record-keeping processes but also to litigation threats, Freedom of Information Act workloads, and involvement of records officers in agency business processes, said NARA’s “Report on Current Recordkeeping Practices within the Federal Government.” The report combines NARA’s own analysis with a study of employee perceptions by SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va. During the first five months of this year, SRA surveyed more than 500 federal workers and conducted 54 focus groups and interviews.

“For many employees, what should be scheduled and preserved is unclear,” the report said. Also, it found that many agencies have never integrated record-keeping with their business processes. NARA’s analysis of 11 agencies revealed that most electronic records are not scheduled for preservation and that many permanent records on paper are not being transferred to NARA. E-mail messages continue to be a sore point.

The report on current record-keeping practices is the first of three and appears on the Web at www.nara.gov/records/rmi.html. NARA seeks public comments by Jan. 31, 2002.

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