Agency Compliance with Records Act Remains Spotty
GAO stresses need for training, reporting and high-level leadership.
Among the many governance issues raised by the Hillary Clinton email dispute is the spottiness of compliance with the Federal Records Act across government.
In a round-up of 24 major departments’ actions released Thursday, the Government Accountability Office found that none had a perfect record complying with deadlines in directives from the Office of Management and Budget and the National Archives and Records Administration.
“Certain requirements were not fully met by five of the agencies because these agencies were either still working on addressing the requirement, or did not view the requirement as mandatory,” auditors wrote. An effort by the Archives to move agencies toward greater automation failed to include the required “metadata requirements in its guidance,” the report said, without which “the federal government may be hindered in its efforts to improve performance and promote openness and accountability through the reform of records management.”
The seven requirements under the 1950 Federal Records Act, as modernized last year; a 2011 presidential memo; and as interpreted by OMB and the Archives, include: oversight at the assistant secretary level, progress reports on managing temporary and permanent email records, development and implementation of plans to manage permanent records electronically, identification for transport those records older than 30 years, identification of additional scheduling needed and National Archives certification for management training.
The Archives coordinates a Federal Records Officer Network that has 172 members from various agencies and collaborates on projects, shares information, and develops training on records management. “It has consolidated records management training materials from multiple agencies into a single e-learning product that agencies can download and use to meet training requirements,” GAO said.
Auditors credited the Office of Personnel Management, working with OMB and the Archives, with taking steps to implement 11 oversight actions, among them finalizing an “occupational series to elevate records management roles, responsibilities and skill sets for agency records professionals.“ OMB plans a revised Circular A-130 by December 2015 on management requirements for moving electronic records to the cloud.
GAO issued 10 recommendations for actions such as designating a top official for oversight and accelerating the process of identifying records older than 30 years. They were addressed to specific agencies, among them the Transportation and Veterans Affairs departments, and the National Science Foundation. The agencies and the Archives generally agreed.
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