Information Management:

More Guidance and Controls Needed Over Federal Recordkeeping Requirements Imposed on the Public

GGD-83-42: Published: Apr 28, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1983.

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GAO reviewed compliance with a provision of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, which requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop standards relating to federally imposed record retention requirements, to determine whether the government has acted to reduce the impact of those requirements.

GAO found that some businesses are confused about the length of time they must keep records for the federal government. GAO also found that some businesses have a difficult time identifying and interpreting federal recordkeeping requirements. These businesses believe this burden could be minimized if the government would provide them with a dependable guide to identify applicable federal recordkeeping requirements. GAO believes that OMB should develop such a guide as part of its responsibility under the act. Effective control of federal recordkeeping requirements requires that OMB establish reasonable retention standards for agencies to follow and that it ensure that agencies follow them. OMB has taken preliminary steps toward establishing standards; however, these steps have been done piecemeal and have been given a low priority. Consequently, little progress has been made toward developing useful record retention standards.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct the Administrator, OIRA, to ensure that the retention periods and standard industrial classification data are entered into the Reports Management System for future analysis.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB stated that the Reports Management System was not designed to be used for such analysis. The system is primarily intended to monitor reporting burdenhours, and OMB does not want to impair its efficiency and effectiveness by adding other functions. The system does not contain the necessary type and quality of data.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct the Administrator, OIRA, to require that agencies specify proposed retention periods and standard industrial classification data for all recordkeeping requirements submitted for review.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB maintains that agencies are already specifying retention periods when they submit requirements for review. It has stopped requiring that agencies submit standard classification data because it does not use these data and does not want to overload its data bank, the Reports Management System.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct the Administrator, OIRA, to work with the General Services Administration (GSA) in developing this plan, including assigning tasks and providing resources needed to accomplish these tasks.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 5 C.F.R. 1320, OMB established a single 3-year standard for all data which requires agencies to justify retention periods exceeding the 3-year period. This will result in different retention periods for different requirements but will not result in standardizing retention periods for individual types/classes of data.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to develop and place a higher priority on implementing a plan to establish and enforce record retention standards for recordkeeping requirements levied by agencies on businesses, individuals, and state and local governments.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 5 C.F.R. 1320, OMB established a single 3-year standard for all data which requires agencies to justify retention periods exceeding the 3-year period. This will result in different retention periods for different requirements but will not result in standardizing retention periods for individual types/classes of data.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct the Administrator, OIRA, to work with GSA to reinstate publication of a guide to federal recordkeeping requirements.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Responsibility for the publication was transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) when it was created. The NARA Office of Federal Register stated that it began publishing the new guide in March 1986. OMB is not taking any action to implement this recommendation.

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