Written byWhitney Blair Wyckoff
Amid heightened public interest in federal records management practices, a watchdog agency released an analysis Thursday on how the government was adhering to certain records requirements.
The Government Accountability Office report found five agencies and the National Archives and Records Administration didn’t reach particular benchmarks.
“[C]ertain requirements were not fully met by 5 of the agencies because these agencies were either still working on addressing the requirement, or did not view the requirement as mandatory,” authors of the report wrote.
Records management has been a hot political topic in recent months: The GAO report comes after news earlier this year that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s used a private email account for official business.
Requested by leadership of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the GAO analysis evaluated how well federal agencies have followed a directive the National Archives and the Office of Personnel Management issued in 2012 to improve the management of the government’s records.
GAO researchers found that of the 24 agencies that the directive applied to, two (the Department of Veterans Affairs and OPM) did not designate a senior official to oversee records management who was at the assistant secretary level.
The report also noted that the National Archives didn’t require metadata in its plan for agencies to automate their records, as required by the directive. Metadata refers to additional information associated with data that makes it easier to parse information.
For the report, researchers went through a range of agency documents, including records management policies, procedures and guidances. They compared what they found to the requirements of the directive. They also conducted interviews with senior officials.
Authors of the report offered specific recommendations to the National Archives, OPM, VA, the Department of Transportation, General Services Administration, and National Science Foundation.
National Archives and four other agencies generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations, according to the report. The National Science Foundation said it “had no comments on the draft report but is committed to the continual improvement of information technology management, including its efforts related to records management.”
Small survey highlights need for doc management training
Earlier last week week, another study highlighted the need to train federal workers on how to handle their documents.
The study, which was released by information management services company Iron Mountain, found that 39 percent of respondents said they received formal training to manage records in their immediate control. At the same time, 17 percent have not received any training at all.
For its report, Iron Mountain commissioned market research company Market Connections Inc. to conduct a blind survey of 150 federal employees working with their agency’s records.
The study ran between February and March, immediately before and after news broke about the Clinton email controversy. Tyler Morris, director of product management for Iron Mountain Government Services, said the hullabaloo brought email protection issues to the forefront.
“If a secretary of a department isn’t sure what the rules are, how to follow them, it’s going to be very hard at the lower levels, too,” he told FedScoop.