DOE Management:

Better Planning Needed to Correct Records Management Problems

RCED-92-88: Published: May 8, 1992. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) actions in response to a December 1988 evaluation of the DOE records management program by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

GAO found that: (1) the NARA evaluation found over 30 deficiencies, involving insufficient DOE attention to sound records management principles and practices, especially in the areas of documenting decisions and activities, inventorying and scheduling records, educating its employees, and protecting its records from inappropriate removal; (2) DOE facilities did not comply with federal and departmental environmental training requirements, since none of the seven contractors visited by the Inspector General had adequate documentation or recordkeeping systems for hazardous waste training; (3) for over a year, DOE had not taken action on the NARA recommendations, primarily because of insufficient staff and high turnover in the DOE Records and Reports Management Branch; (4) since reorganizing that branch, DOE has acted on some of the NARA recommendations by increasing branch staff and resources, increasing communications between branch and field office records officers, and drafting revisions to its records management orders to include changes that NARA recommended; (5) after issuing its revised records management orders, DOE will have to implement adequate documentation practices and train employees at all levels of its operations, perform comprehensive inventories of all its records, develop new disposition schedules for those records, and establish procedures to prevent the removal or destruction of official records when employees leave DOE or its contractors; and (6) DOE has not developed plans for how it will address the remaining concerns NARA raised about its records management program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE sent an action memorandum to its heads of headquarters and field offices asking them to develop plans for correcting the remaining deficiencies cited in the NARA 1988 report. Plans were received and analyzed for the records inventory and scheduling area. Overall site plans for other NARA deficiencies were received from all sites. A quality improvement team (QIT) was formed and a departmental strategic plan was developed. All appropriate sites have completed corresponding action plans with specific milestones. All actions are being monitored by the headquarters division and the QIT. NARA has agreed that DOE has met all of its concerns.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the head of each headquarters and field office to develop a plan for correcting the remainder of the deficiencies that NARA found in the DOE records management program. Those plans should include specific priorities, goals, and target dates for correcting the deficiencies noted in the NARA evaluation and should identify the amount of work remaining at each headquarters, field, and contractor office.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has developed guidelines on the plans' development, and has agreed to establish short reporting periods suitable for ongoing review and progress monitoring, and oversee implementation actions until all recommendations have been implemented to NARA's satisfaction. DOE anticipates many years of work to complete actions. A strategic plan for completing all actions by the year 2000 was developed by QIT in August 1994. The plan is called "A Roadmap to the Year 2000." All deficiencies in the Department's records management program are delineated in the plan, and responsibility for monitoring their completion has been delegated to appropriate headquarters and field offices. QIT meets at least semi-annually and the DOE records management division produces periodic status reports on various aspects of the records management program, such as the Departmentwide records inventory.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the DOE Records and Reports Management Branch to provide guidance on the plans' development, review those plans, and monitor their implementation until DOE has fully responded to NARA concerns.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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