by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Department of Energy employees routinely use private email accounts for public business and decide on their own which emails to keep or delete, according to the DOE Office of Inspector General. The government employees more than 13,000 people at the department.
“Department officials noted that guidelines within which employees could send or receive work-related email from their personal accounts had not been established, making archival and retrieval of potential records difficult or impossible,” the IG said in a special report made public Wednesday.
The department’s email applications also “did not meet federal requirements for records management because they relied solely on the use for identification and did not prevent the modification and deletion of records.”
Many employees didn’t know better. “In most cases, users were unaware that they were even responsible for identifying which emails should be retained as records,” the IG said.
Investigators found widespread ignorance about how to identify and archive emails, including among “senior department officials” in the National Nuclear Security Administration. Less than half of employees interviewed said they manually archive emails, as DOE recommended.