The TIGTA Report details the calamities of computer hard drives erroneously destroyed or damaged; the IRS does not follow its own policies requiring it to document records that have been searched; IRS policies for preserving records from separated employees are woefully inadequate; repeated changes in IRS’ electronic media storage policies combined with reliance on employees to maintain records has led to confusion and loss of records; a recently instituted executive e-mail retention policy, which should have resulted in the archiving of e-mails was not implemented effectively simply because some personnel did not turn on the automatic archiving feature!
The TIGTA Report noted a 2014 incident: "We found that when an employee separated from the IRS in August 2014, the employee left his laptop with his secretary. That employee was under a litigation hold to ensure that relevant evidence was preserved for use in litigation. However, without a policy in place to ensure that laptops of separating employees under litigation holds were maintained, that laptop was sent to the IT organization for standard sanitization and disposal."
IRS policies do not comply with certain Federal requirements that agencies must ensure that all records are retrievable and usable for as long as needed. For example, IRS e-mail retention policies are not adequate because e-mails are not automatically archived for all IRS employees. Instead, the IRS’s current policy instructs employees to take manual actions to archive e-mails by saving them permanently on computer hard drives or network shared drives.
This policy has resulted in lost records when computer hard drives are destroyed or damaged. In addition, a recently instituted executive e-mail retention policy, which should have resulted in the archiving of e-mails from specific executives, was not implemented effectively because some executives did not turn on the automatic archiving feature.
For certain cases that TIGTA reviewed, IRS policies were not implemented consistently to ensure that all relevant documents were searched and produced when responding to external requests for records. TIGTA’s review of 30 completed Freedom of Information Act requests found that in more than half of the responses, the IRS did not follow its own policies that require it to document what records were searched. TIGTA also found that IRS policies for preserving records from separated employees were not adequate.
TIGTA made five recommendations related to improving the IRS’s policies for record retention and responding to external requests for records. For example, TIGTA recommended that the IRS implement an enterprise e-mail solution that enables the IRS to comply with Federal records management requirements. TIGTA also recommended that the newly issued policy on the collection and preservation of Federal records associated with separated employees is disseminated throughout the agency to ensure consistent compliance with Federal records retention requirements.
In their response to our report, IRS management agreed with all five recommendations. The IRS stated that deployment of a new enterprise e-mail solution is currently underway that shouldenable the IRS to comply with Federal recordsmanagement requirements. The IRS also statedthat it has issued interim guidance on theseparating employee clearing process forcollecting and preserving Federal records, whichhas been disseminated throughout the IRS.
Will things really improve? Let’s see if the IRS finally gets some funding?
Read more at: Tax Times blog