FAQs for GRS 5.5, Mail, Printing, and Telecommunication Service Management Records
Download all Frequently Asked Questions of Individual GRS Schedules in a PDF
1. Why does this schedule combine records of disparate communication methods, such as hard-copy mail, telephone, and radio, into unified items? Aren’t these records fundamentally different?
Communication methods may differ and message formats may be wildly divergent. But at root, they all accomplish the same business process: they transmit information from point A to point B. What unifies these records is that they all relate to the same function: managing services that transmit information.
2. Why does this schedule specifically exclude actual information relayed by hard copy mail or packages, and telephone, email, text, or radio messages?
This schedule does not cover messages agencies send or receive by various communication services because agencies must schedule such messages based on their purpose and content. GRS 5.5 covers records of how the agency manages the means of transmitting information (the envelope) but does not cover the information itself (what is inside the envelope).
3. Why are records of agencies that provide printing and radio/broadcasting services as part of their mission activities not covered by this schedule?
A few agencies of the Federal Government—the Government Printing Office, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and Armed Forces Radio and Television Service are primary examples—provide communication services as their mission. Agencies must always schedule mission records in agency-specific schedules. This GRS covers records agencies create as consumers of communication services rather than those created in providing those services.
QUESTION RELATED TO ITEM 010
4. The disposition instruction gives two variant retention instructions to be used “as appropriate.” How do I determine what is “appropriate”?
Some records covered by this item concern agreements, which have start and end dates. The retention period for these records is 3 years after the agreement ends by expiration or cancellation. Records not linked to an agreement may be destroyed when simply 3 years old.
QUESTION RELATED TO ITEMS 010 and 020
5. What’s the difference between “telephone and mobile device use records” (item 010) and “telephone message registers and logs” (item 020)?
“Telephone and mobile device use records” (item 010, third bullet) document use of a particular instrument; the phone bill is one common example. “Telephone message registers and logs” (item 020, last bullet) are records of messages taken over the phone by third parties and forwarded to those with a need to know, or notes and logs a recipient makes to track their telephone messages. These registers and logs generally apply to multiple telephones.
QUESTIONS RELATED TO ITEM 020
6. How does this item relate to GRS 5.6, item 50, which covers “postal irregularities” records?
Mailrooms create records documenting incidents of mishandled mail. Some incidents are minor and may require no more attention than re-delivery to the correct address or apology for late delivery. These are covered by GRS 5.5, item 020. Other incidents—particularly if intentional mishandling is suspected—may be passed along to an investigative office. Mailrooms must retain some information about these more serious incidents in order to completely document their own business. Under item 020, a mailroom may choose to destroy records of all incidents—regardless of severity—when 3 years old. The investigative office to which the mailroom forwarded a copy of an incident case file retains records documenting the investigative work for 6 years under GRS 5.6, item 050. When different offices retain identical documents for different business purposes, they may require different retention periods.
7. Why are records tracking shipment, etc. (item’s first bullet), and reports of loss, etc. (third bullet), not covered by this item if held by the United States Postal Service (USPS)?
Tracking mail and package shipments and investigating reported losses are mission functions of the USPS. The GRS does not cover agency mission-specific records; the USPS must schedule records documenting its mission under an agency-specific schedule.
QUESTION RELATED TO ITEM 030
8. Why are metered mail records kept for so much longer than other mail control records, which are covered by item 020?
Metered mail records document an agency’s financial activity. We do not include them in GRS 1.1 because they relate more to the communication function than the financial management function. But because they are eligible for audit just like any other record documenting an agency’s finances, they must be retained for 6 years just like auditable records in GRS 1.1, item 010.