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Environmental Protection Agency

Reduce Costs Associated with Storage of Paper Files

Agency-wide, EPA is spending in the neighborhood of $1,000,000.00 per year to store paper records. EPA Region 3's portion of that overall cost is approximately $75,000.00 annually (7.5%). While we cannot reasonably expect to reach a paper storage cost of $0.00, I believe the federal government as a whole could realize significant savings through a presidential or congressional mandate stating that electronic records are the legal, official record copy wherever and whenever possible. Also to the extent possible, regardless of the actual original format, once a non-electronic record is made electronic (e.g., a paper record is scanned into a database), the 'original' format may be considered a convenience copy and disposed in accordance with applicable laws and regulations following a rigorous Quality Assurance / Quality Control check. Locally, we are experiencing a growing situation where thousands of linear feet of paper records are imaged, indexed, and scruitinized for errors, but then the paper is sent off for storage indefinitely. No top-level guidance exists to assist federal employees with managing the two worlds of federal records - electronic and non-electronic. Therefore, out of fear of legal repercussions, the paper is retained but the electronic copy is what is used in the course of daily operations. This leads to confusion over which copy is the official record, continually mounting storage costs, and a fundamental distrust of the integrity of our electronic records management systems.

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Idea No. 6419