Access and Feeds

Records Management: Government Out of Compliance

By Dick Weisinger

Corporations aren’t the only ones struggling to keep up with the demands of compliance and records management. Government agencies may be some of the worst culprits.

The National Archives (NARA) recently asked 224 federal agencies to self-evaluate their current handling of records within their agencies. 36 percent admitted that they may be at high risk for improperly handling records.  These agencies may not even be creating and managing records or setting up record retention policies.  And another 43 percent said that they are at moderate risk. Which adds up to a rather eye-popping 79 percent of federally agencies not adequately practicing records management principles — based on their self-evaluation.

High risk agencies include the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis; the U.S. European Command; the Navy; the Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration; the Transportation Department’s Federal Transit Administration and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration; the International Trade Commission; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Only a handful of the 224 agencies rated themselves as having no problems.  The included the Department of Defense, the Center for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Social Security  Administration.

David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, said that “Today, the Federal Government does not consistently manage its records and information – particularly its electronic records – well enough to meet business needs, protect rights or assure accountability, and ensure the continued preservation and access of permanently valuable records. The long-term success of the Open Government initiative – and the ability of the National Archives to safeguard and ensure access to the records of our government – hinges on the ability of each Federal agency to effectively manage its records. As Archivist of the United States, this level of risk is of great concern to me, and the National Archives will take action with Federal agencies to address this unacceptable risk.”

Going forward the agency self-evaluation survey for records management compliance will be done annually as a way to measure improvement in compliance among the agencies.

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