The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that NARA’s electronic records management (ERM) activities still have a slew of weaknesses in a report publicly released June 26.

Of the weaknesses, OIG said that NARA has not identified all Federal agencies subject to the Federal Records Act (FRA) or the scope of scheduled electronic records accessioned into NARA’s holdings. NARA also lacks an approach to properly identify gaps in its permanent electronic records scheduled accessions, and NARA needs stronger inspections of agencies’ record-keeping programs.

OIG highlighted a series of causes that led to these shortfalls. For instance, NARA’s oversight authority was weak, and NARA has poor communication between offices and antiquated data systems.

Furthermore, NARA did not get legacy permanent disposition authorities entered into its data base in a timely manner. NARA also has not codified its best practices, and there isn’t adequate strategic planning around NARA’s inspections.

“As a result, permanent records are still at significant risk of loss and destruction,” OIG said. “These findings significantly affect NARA’s ability to fulfill its statutory role as records manager for the Federal Government.”

OIG issued 10 recommendations help NARA strengthen its electronic records management and oversight controls. They cover suggestions to report ERM deficiencies as material weaknesses, to keep track of agencies subject to FRA, and ensure NARA has a method to inform them when records are overdue. NARA should also create a plan to identify records overdue for transfer.

Recommendations further state that NARA should complete validation and data entry of legacy permanent disposition authorities into the Electronic Records Archive (ERA) in a timely manner, and that NARA review whether existing technology for identifying gaps in electronic records accessions is sufficient and, if not, request funding or find an alternative solution to ensure NARA identifies and obtains permanent electronic records.

Finally, OIG recommended that NARA codify how often Federal agencies should review record schedules, contact agencies using record schedules and require schedule review, and develop a strategy to ensure annual inspections results mitigate threats and risk to Federal electronic records activities.

NARA agreed with the recommendations and provided OIG with a plan of action.

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Melissa Harris