Agencies told to overhaul recordkeeping practices
- By Camille Tuutti
- Nov 29, 2011
A newly released presidential memorandum directs executive branch agencies to reform outdated policies and practices to bring government recordkeeping into the 21st century by better documenting agency actions and decisions.
The Nov. 28 memo calls on federal agencies to create new records management systems that use new technologies and give citizens better access to information. Part of the effort will require agencies to report on their current records management and to consult with the public about improvements.
The memo also directs each agency to give the U.S. archivist the name of a senior official who will supervise the agency’s evaluation of its records management programs. These assessments will focus on digital records, including email and social media, as well as programs that use or develop cloud-based services.
Once the evaluations have been submitted, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Office of Management and Budget have an additional 120 days to issue a directive to agencies with specific guidelines on how to reform records management policies and practices.
Katherine McFate, president of OMB Watch, lauded the presidential memo, saying that electronic communications tools have drastically increased the volume of information that federal employees are expected to store.
“To be responsive and effective, the public sector needs to employ modern IT management techniques equivalent to or better than those the private sector uses,” she said. “The public has a right to know how decisions are made about regulating chemicals and food safety; this requires proper records management."
It’s no secret that agencies have long struggled with the deluge of information that the digital era has ushered in and how to best provide the access to it. In a Feb. 22 report, NARA estimated that 95 percent of federal agencies did not comply with statutory and regulatory records management requirements.
The report also found that records management programs in many agencies fail to preserve e-mail records in a record-keeping system, and often lack involvement with the design, development and adoption of new electronic systems. And despite the push toward paperless processes in government, many agency programs still instruct employees to print and file e-mail messages, the audit found.
Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.