Center Blog

Creating a More Transparent Agency with Good Records Practices

September 7, 2016

Bob Baird, CEO, ARMA International

For incoming agency leaders who must grapple with an array of management and policy challenges, focusing early attention on transparency and records management compliance may seem like a priority to delegate. But doing so has created significant political and legal risks that can easily be avoided.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is working to develop and promote best practices throughout the federal government by driving the implementation of an ambitious multi-year effort to reform and modernize records management policies and practices. The Directive on Managing Government Records requires executive branch agencies to ensure transparency, efficiency and accountability through electronic recordkeeping, and to demonstrate compliance with federal records management statutes and regulations.

Making records management a priority from the beginning of an administration and at the top of an agency to-do list will pay significant dividends in the protection of vital government information, improved relations with congressional oversight committees and increased public confidence in government. Doing so requires agency leaders to ensure that certain polices and enforcement mechanisms are in place to govern how an agency preserves, manages, and maintains electronic and other communications that constitute government records.

Those include:

  • Paying greater attention to how the agency is meeting the archivist’s 2016 and 2019 mandates, including providing Congress with updates in semi-annual reports;
  • Bringing together regulations, memoranda and directives under one coordinating mechanism within the agency to identify the overlaps and gaps in information policies and providing an integrated information governance policy;
  • Integrating records management practitioners into the agency’s full information technology lifecycle management process to avoid the kind of systemic records management failures that have plagued a number agencies;
  • Increasing education and training resources for agency records and information management practitioners as they work to comply with federal statutes, regulations, directives and policies; and
  • Identifying a senior agency official for records management who has the responsibility and capacity to develop, maintain and facilitate the implementation of a sound and integrated records management and information governance architecture.

As a standards-setting organization for information governance and records management practitioners, ARMA International has developed the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles, a set of best practices to address the need for better governmental and business transparency, as well as privacy and information security. Accompanying the principles is an information governance maturity model that identifies the critical hallmarks of information governance, provides a standard of conduct for governing information as well as metrics by which to judge that conduct.

Americans deserve a government that operates in a transparent manner and protects and manages public records in a responsible way. The effectiveness of government policies, programs and decisions that seek to promote these objectives depends on records management professionals having the tools, resources and authorities they need to be successful in meeting their legal and regulatory responsibilities with regard to managing information in the digital age.

See more on records management and transition, as well as other transition resources for federal agencies, at GSA’s Presidential Transition Directory.

ARMA International is a not-for-profit professional association and the authority on managing records and information. Formed in 1955, ARMA International is the oldest and largest association for the records and information management profession with a current international membership of more than 10,000. It provides education, publications, and information on the efficient maintenance, retrieval, and preservation of vital information created in public and private organizations in all sectors of the economy.


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