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State Records Guideline No. 1

Making Proper Records

Issued: 13 July 2005

Authority

This guideline is issued under the provisions of Section 10A of the Archives Act 1983. Guidelines issued by the State Archivist under this Section set standards, policy, and procedures relating to the making and keeping of State records. This section also requires all relevant authorities to take all reasonable steps to comply with these guidelines, and put them into effect.

Ian Pearce
State Archivist


Table of Contents


1. Purpose

Section 10 of the Archives Act 1983 requires all relevant authorities to make proper records of the business of their organisation and keep them until they are dealt with through other sections of the Act. This guideline provides further information about the obligations flowing from this requirement. It provides a description of the recordkeeping principles and environment in which proper records are made, and the attributes of these records.

2. Definitions

agency - is used in this guideline to refer to all agencies, authorities, statutory offices, departments, councils and other organisations that are subject to, and defined in, the Archives Act 1983.

record - is a document or an object that is, or has been, made or kept by reason of any information or matter that it contains or can be obtained from it or by reason of its connection with any event person, circumstance, or thing. A document includes any printed or written material and an object includes a sound recording, coded storage device, magnetic tape or disc, microfilm, photograph, film, map, plan, or model or painting or other pictorial or graphic work.

recordkeeping system -a system which captures manages and provides access to records through time. Recordkeeping systems can be either in an electronic or paper form.

relevant authoritymeans the Secretary or head of a Government department or agency, or the person directly responsible to the Minister concerned for the administration and direction of that department, service; or body. It means, in relation to a State authority or a local authority that is incorporated, that authority; or in relation to a State authority or a local authority that is unincorporated, the secretary, clerk, or other principal executive officer of that authority.

3. Principles for making proper records

Proper records are sources of detailed information and evidence that can be relied on and used to support current activities. They are records that have been created and managed in ways to ensure that they can be reused and understood in the future. This can be for current business purposes, as evidence in legal proceedings, for accountability to internal or external stakeholders, or for future historical research.

3.1 Records must be made

A relevant authority must ensure that records are made that document or facilitate the transaction of a business activity of the agency for which the relevant authority has responsibility.

The records can be automatically generated by a business system or deliberately made by a person who was involved in the transaction. A decision on what records need to be created to support particular business processes and activities is a risk based decision. If the record was not an automatic or direct by-product of business, the record should be made as soon as practicable after the event.

Examples of business activities where records may need to be made deliberately are:

  • inwards and outwards communication, whether hard copy, electronic, or notes of a telephone conversation
  • minutes of meetings and other consultations and deliberations
  • oral decisions and commitments
  • the exercise of discretionary judgement
  • contractual arrangements and agreements
  • development and drafting of policy documentation

The agency should have business rules and procedures in place to ensure that requirements to make records are documented, that systems are in place to facilitate this, and that staff are aware of their responsibilities in this area.

3.2 Records must be accurate

All records made by the agency must be a correct reflection of what was done, communicated or decided. An accurate record is one that can be trusted as a true representation of the transactions or events which it documents.

Designing systems for the automatic or easy creation and capture of records helps ensure accuracy of records. Business practices and procedures can also support accuracy, for example, by requiring that minutes of meetings are agreed to and endorsed by participants.

3.3 Records must be authentic

An authentic record is one that can be proven:

  • to be what it claims to be
  • to have been created or sent by the person claimed to have created or sent it
  • to have been created or sent at the time claimed

The capture, as part of normal administrative routine, of records made or received by the agency into a formal recordkeeping system with necessary metadata helps ensure authenticity. Metadata also facilitates the retrieval and use of the records and supports their management over time. A formal recordkeeping system is one identified in policies or procedures as the appropriate system for documenting business activities. Different systems may be used for different business activities.

Recordkeeping systems are not just records management software packages. Many business systems such as personnel and payroll databases, and financial management systems, are also recordkeeping systems as records are made by and kept in these systems. Systems do not have to be technology based - many agencies have some or all paper-based recordkeeping systems.

3.4 Records must have integrity

To maintain the integrity of a record it must be complete and unaltered, now and in the future and be proven to have been managed appropriately through time.

Records must be tamper-proof. They should be protected against unauthorised access, alteration, deletion or loss. 

Over the course of time, records may be moved or migrated from one system to another. To preserve the integrity of the record, this process must be carefully managed and comply with the reproduction conditions included in the State Records Guideline No. 8, Management of source records that have been copied, converted or migrated.

3.5 Records must be accessible and useable

A record must be understandable, complete, retrievable and available through time.

To be understood, records need to be linked to the context of their creation. Both the content and context of the records must be kept and be accessible for as long as they are required.

Records creators should be encouraged to make records that give a sufficiently detailed picture or account of the event to ensure the records can be understood by users who were not directly involved in the events documented. Care should also be taken that the content of records is understandable. 

The context of records is usually achieved by using metadata to link them to the business functions and activities that generated them, and to related records. 

4. Acknowledgement

Acknowledgement is made to the State Records Authority of New South Wales for much of the content in this guideline.


Compliance checklist

1.

Records must be made

1.1

Records are made to document or facilitate the transaction of all business activities.

o Yes

o No

1.2

Business rules and procedures are in place to ensure that requirements to make records are documented.

o Yes

o No

1.3

Business rules and procedures are in place to ensure that systems are in place to facilitate the making of records.

o Yes

o No

1.4

All staff are aware of their responsibilities to make records.

o Yes

o No

2.

Records must be accurate

2.1

Records are made at the time of or as soon as practicable after the event to which they relate.

o Yes

o No

2.2

All records made by the agency are a correct reflection of what was done, communicated or decided.

o Yes

o No

3.

Records must be authentic

3.1

Records made or received by the agency are routinely captured into a formal recordkeeping system.

o Yes

o No

3.2

Appropriate metadata is created and captured, or otherwise associated with records. 

o Yes

o No

4.

Records must have integrity

4.1

Unauthorised access, alteration, deletion or destruction is forbidden by agency policy and practice. 

o Yes

o No

4.2

Recordkeeping systems and storage facilities are designed and implemented to protect records from unauthorized access, alteration, deletion or loss.

o Yes

o No

4.3

Migration of records from one system to another is controlled and documented and complies with State records guidelines.

o Yes

o No

5.

Records must be accessible and useable

5.1

Records are linked to the business context. 

o Yes

o No

5.2

Records relating to the same business activity or transaction are linked to each other.

o Yes

o No

5.3

The location and use of records is recorded and tracked.

o Yes

o No

5.4

Records are accessible for as long as they are required.

o Yes

o No