State government records should be carefully managed for accountability
In order to maintain credibility and accountability, it is important for government offices at all levels to maintain a proper records management solution. While some government officials may not see the need to keep old email correspondence and other seemingly unimportant records, the organization and storage of these materials is important in order to show the public that that office is responsible, reliable and willing to stand behind its decisions.
According to the Times and Democrat, the South Carolina governor's office recently came under fire for its records information management & storage policies. State watchdog groups have voiced concerns that a new policy allows Governor Nikki Haley and her staff too much freedom in choosing to delete emails, and could easily be abused.
While the policy dictates that the office must turn over correspondence to the state Department of Archives and History, it allows officials to first delete any files that are deemed "temporary records created for internal purposes, including preliminary drafts of letters, memoranda, or reports, and other informal materials that do not record decisions; documents that are superseded or outdated; and information in a form used in casual conversation," according to the news source.
The concern surrounding this new policy stems directly from the freedom it gives the officials in deciding what is and isn't important. According to the news source, Eric Emerson, director of the archives department, responded to this by saying that it doesn't make sense for the governor's administration to turn over every piece of correspondence, as it would overwhelm the department's staff trying to sort through all the spam and junk email in order to determine what is worth saving.
"We’re looking for stuff that’s going to be of long-term value," Emerson told the news source, noting that his department's goals aren't to meet the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but records storage needs. "Media may be looking for issues that are just pertinent to a current issue."
In order to improve its records management, a government office could outsource to a better qualified records management company that is dedicated to not only preserving documents for historical needs, but also meeting public expectations, such as any FOIA requests or other legal requirements.