Records management in the Australian public service

27 Jun 2012

This audit assesses the extent to which government agencies create, manage and dispose of records in accordance with key business, legal and policy requirements.

The agencies included in the audit were the: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs); Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC); and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury). The audit also considered the Archives’ response to Recommendation No. 1 from ANAO Audit Report No.6 2006–07 Recordkeeping including the Management of Electronic Records, including whether they had clarified Australian Government records management requirements for agencies.

A key element of sound public administration and accountability is adequate recording or documentation of the business of government. To achieve this, agencies need to develop records management frameworks and systems designed to ensure that records are appropriately managed. This commences with the creation and subsequent capture of records in records management systems, through to their maintenance and use, and ultimately their transfer to the National Archives of Australia (the Archives) or destruction. Records management needs to be seen as important within the governance, resourcing and information management arrangements of an agency for it to effectively support the management of business activities and risks, and to satisfy records management requirements.

The requirements that Australian Government agencies need to meet in relation to records management derive from multiple sources. Access to, preservation and destruction of information created and received when undertaking Australian Government business is governed by the Archives Act 1983 (Archives Act). A key focus of the Archives Act is authorisation of the disposal or destruction of records by the Archives approving records authorities. Records management obligations are also contained in other Acts including the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act).

The Archives also has a key role in establishing standards, and providing guidance and assistance to agencies in managing their records management responsibilities. An important piece of guidance issued by the Archives is Check up 2.0, which establishes the minimum requirements for information and records management. These requirements cover agencies’ information and records management arrangements and practices, including frameworks, records’ creation, capture and destruction, and business systems. A number of other Australian Government agencies have issued policies, standards and guidelines relevant to the management of records, including electronic records. For example, the Attorney-General’s Department has established the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF), which outlines mandatory minimum security requirements for all agencies, and has implications for records management.

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