Federal Records:

Removal of Agency Documents by Senior Officials Upon Leaving Office

GGD-89-91: Published: Jul 25, 1989. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO surveyed 13 cabinet-level departments to assess the extent to which they governed senior officials' removal of federal records upon leaving office.

GAO found that: (1) various federal and criminal laws applied to officials' removal of materials, depending on their qualification as records under each law's or the individual agency's definition; (2) those laws generally did not apply to the removal of nonrecord materials, including extra copies of records or personal papers; (3) 12 of the 13 agencies surveyed issued removal regulations, with 8 requiring review of documents before removal; (4) none of the agencies had a procedure for documenting the relinquishment of government ownership of removed materials; (5) each of the 13 agencies made officials aware of record removal regulations and the penalties for violating those regulations; (6) of the 24 top officials in 12 agencies, 5 planned to remove only nonrecord materials, 12 did not intend to remove any materials, and 7 had not expressed their plans; (7) none of the 12 agencies allowed officials to remove records; and (8) 11 agencies permitted officials to remove some copies of unclassified records, while 4 would allow officials to remove copies of some withheld records if the officials requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.

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