H.R. 5170, Federal Records Accountability Act of 2014

H.R. 5170

Federal Records Accountability Act of 2014

Date
September 16, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, September 16, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 5170, the Federal Records Accountability Act of 2014, as amended, under a suspension of the rules.  H.R. 5170 was introduced on July 23, 2014 by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5170 creates a process to remove a federal employee for the deliberate destruction of federal records.  Under this process, employees are immediately suspended without pay.  Within 15 days of the suspension, an employee is given a written statement of formal charges, which can be amended within 30 days thereafter.  The employee is given 15 days after receipt of the written statement to respond and an additional 15 days if the charges are amended.  The employee is entitled to a hearing and a review of the employee’s case is conducted by the head of the respective agency or a designee.  Finally, the agency is required to make a final determination in writing that may result in termination of the employee.  The employee is entitled to an appeal.

This legislation also amends the Presidential Records Act to bar the use of non-official electronic messaging accounts (e-mail, etc.) in the conduct of official business such as the creation or transmission of federal records, unless the employee, within 15 days: 1) includes an official electronic messaging account of the President, Vice President, or employee of a Federal agency as a recipient in the original creation or transmission of the applicable electronic message; 2) forwards a complete copy of the electronic message (including recipients) to an official electronic messaging account of the President, Vice President, or covered employee; or 3) prints a complete copy of the applicable electronic message and submits it to the appropriate office for archival storage by the Executive Office of the President.  An intentional violation of this requirement would be considered the destruction of a federal record under this Act and grounds for termination.

H.R. 5170 also requires Federal agencies to publicly report the loss or potential loss of any federal records owned by the agency and a summary of the contents of the records.  In this situation, the head of a Federal agency shall initiate action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records.  In order to ensure this occurs, this legislation creates a senior agency position within each agency to ensure compliance and accountability regarding recordkeeping laws.  Within 18 months of enactment of this Act, the Archivist is required to promulgate regulations governing Federal agency preservation of electronic messages determined to be records.  These regulations shall, at a minimum: 1) require the electronic capture, management, and preservation of such electronic records in accordance with current law; 2) require that these records are readily accessible; 3) establish mandatory minimum functional requirements for electronic records management systems; 4) establish a process to certify that Federal agencies’ electronic records management systems meet mandatory minimum functional requirements; and 5) include timelines for Federal agency compliance with the regulations that ensure compliance within 2 years of enactment.  This legislation requires the head of each Federal agency to submit a report to the Archivist, within 3 years of enactment, on their agency’s compliance.  Within 90 days after the receipt of the report, the Archivist is required to transmit a report to Congress on the progress of Federal agencies’ compliance.

Finally, not later than December 31, 2016, federal agencies are required to automatically capture all of the electronic messages of senior agency officials, their assistants, and other officials deemed most likely to come into regular contact with large numbers of federal records.  The Archivist is required to annually certify whether the electronic management controls developed by the President meet requirements established under this Act.

Background

This legislation is a response to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) report to Congress that key documents relating to the investigation of Lois Lerner (former Director of the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations Unit) had been lost.  This legislation takes significant steps to ensure that agencies properly store and archive sensitive records, and establishes punishments for the intentional destruction, theft, or falsification or Federal records.

Cost

A formal CBO cost estimate is currently unavailable.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.