Agencies still struggling with electronic records management, NARA report shows

Federal agencies are struggling to manage and store an ongoing flow of paperwork and electronic records, according to the 2011 Records Management Self-Assessment Report released on May 1 by the National Archives and Records Administration.

NARA distributed the annual self-assessment survey to federal agencies and received responses from 247 agencies. Unlike previous years, it issued statistical summaries rather than scores for specific agencies.

Overall, the agencies still face difficulties with managing records, NARA said.

“A large majority of federal agencies that responded remain at high to moderate risk of compromising the integrity, authenticity, and reliability of their records,” NARA said in the report. “They risk improper management and disposition of records or, in some cases, they are saving their records but not taking the necessary steps to ensure that they can be retrieved, read, or interpreted.”

Less than a third (32 percent) of the agencies that responded said they have performance metrics in place for their records management program. Forty percent did not and 25 percent were in the process of developing such metrics.

The assessments indicate that most agencies do not have adequate controls for records management, and their staffs have limited knowledge and understanding of electronic records. Nearly a quarter of the respondent agencies said they do not conduct records management training for their senior officials.

For electronic records, over 80 percent of agencies print and file e-mail messages, and about 50 percent use backup tapes and 44 percent use Portable Document Files. Only 19 percent use records management systems.

“Many records management staff have insufficient knowledge and understanding of electronic records, which leads to the continued implementation of poor recordkeeping practices,” NARA said in a news release.

Less than a third (32 percent) of the agencies that responded said they have performance metrics in place for their records management program. Forty percent did not and 25 percent were in the process of developing such metrics

On the other hand, 50 percent of the agencies have developed policies for storage of their communications on Facebook and Twitter, which NARA characterized as an improvement.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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