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Agencies not complying with record preservation policies

Agencies not complying with record preservation policies, By Jill R. Aitoro, NextGov, April 24, 2008.

At the hearing, Linda Koontz, director of information management issues at the Government Accountability Office, released preliminary results from an ongoing GAO study of how four agencies managed e-mail and electronic records. …Koontz said the agencies print and then file e-mails, but about half of senior officials were not following these procedures, and the e-mails for these officials were maintained in e-mail systems that lacked record-keeping capabilities, such as the ability to group the e-mails using a classification system.

The House is considering the Electronic Communications Preservation Act, which would strengthen policies for preservation of government records including White House e-mails.

Gary Stern, general counsel for NARA said that the legislation’s potential cost to agencies could be “astronomical,” and noted the bill’s requirement that the National Archives would maintain authority over the White House’s electronic records might be unconstitutional.

Patrice McDermott, director of OpentheGovernment.org, said:

“I understand the constitutional issues, and I don’t have a good answer for that…. But one of the concerns is that there is no way to enforce accountability [of] records management in the White House. We understand it’s a difficult dance [for NARA]. They’re there at the invitation of the White House in many cases, but there needs to be some way for the outside community to hold the White House accountable.”

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