FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: EPA IG says EPA needs to improve retention of text messages

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

Findings from "Congressionally Requested Audit: EPA Needs to Improve Processes for Preserving Text Messages as Federal Records":

  • From July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, EPA employees sent and received over 3.1 million text messages using government-issued mobile devices procured under the WCF.
  • Our audit work disclosed that government-issued mobile devices of senior officials are searched for text messages that need to be preserved as records at different intervals. For example, some senior EPA officials have their staff search their mobile devices from periodically (at least monthly) to every 20 days.
  • Based on the above, the possibility exists that the EPA could receive a FOIA request before an employee forwards and preserves their potential text message records within the agency’s record-keeping system and, thus, the impacted government-issued mobile device would not have been searched. As such, improving instructions to employees about FOIA and their record responsibilities could strengthen the agency’s record-keeping internal controls for searching all potential sources of records in the event an employee has not already captured the applicable records in the agency’s record-keeping system.

Read the report here.