Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Lost Emails of the I.R.S. Point to a Wider Problem; New York Times, 6/30/14

Derek Willis, New York Times; The Lost Emails of the I.R.S. Point to a Wider Problem:
"Even requiring agencies to store emails as electronic records rather than on paper might not solve the federal government’s problems with record management. Carl Malamud, the founder and president of the nonprofit Public.Resource.Org, which places state and federal government information in the public domain, described a deeper problem: Despite spending billions on information technology, the federal government has not kept pace with advances in technology. It has developed a defensive posture when the public and Congress demand information.
“In my view, one reason people dump so much on the Civil Service is that the Civil Service is forced to work with the most God-awful tools known to modern organizations,” Mr. Malamud said. “We spent $80 billion a year on I.T., and I’ve heard that 75 percent of that is a total waste, the end result being that we paralyze the bureaucracy and they in turn develop a real attitude.”
Mr. Malamud’s own experience with the I.R.S. includes performing audits on publicly available information to ensure that taxpayer data such as Social Security numbers do not get released by the agency. (He found tens of thousands of examples in one I.R.S.-managed database last year). The problem, he said, “is a people problem, not a money problem.”
A 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, agreed. “Technology alone cannot solve the problem without commitment from agencies,” it concluded. Insufficient training and senior officials who did not follow established procedures were among the concerns that the G.A.O. cited, calling email management “especially problematic.”"

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