Managing the Public Service: Strategies for Improvement

2310-2012 (online)
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A strong and achieving public service is a necessary condition for a competitively successful nation. This series maps current and emerging best practices in public service management from across the Commonwealth. It draws on the experience of practitioners, managers and policy-makers to point the way to practical strategies for improvement.

Better Information Practices

Better Information Practices

Improving Records and Information Management in the Public Service You do not have access to this content

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Sam Agere, Victoria L. Lemieux, P. C. Mazikana
01 Jan 1999
9781848596719 (PDF)

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This book shares best practice in the design of better record management systems (including developing a Retention Schedule); shows a manual used by ministries and departments as an example and formulates guidelines for using a schedule and indexing.

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  • Foreword

    A strong and achieving public service is a necessary condition for a competitively successful nation. The Management and Training Services Division (MTSD) of the Commonwealth Secretariat assists member governments to improve the performance of the public service through action-oriented advisory services, policy analysis and training. This assistance is supported by funds from the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. (CFTC).

  • Current Good Practices in Records and Information Management in the Public Service

    The keeping of records and storing of information in an organisation have, in the last few years, become critical not only for historical purposes but also, and more importantly, for current and future managerial and policy development. They have been used as tools and instruments with which to understand organisations and to use them as a basis for improvement, comparison with other agencies and secures resources.

  • Records and Information Management Practices and Procedures

    All governments, big and small, create and receive records and information. These records relate to the activities of the ministries and departments and include general correspondence, routine accounting papers, personnel material, and records relating to special projects, programmes, conferences, and seminars. All these records require a system of dealing with them and it is in this respect that records management has a vital role to play.

  • The Cost Factor in Records and Information Management

    Information and data are costly and valuable resources that should be managed in the same manner as other costly and/or valuable resources. In order to improve and reduce the management costs it is essential to determine and measure the costs involved in the collecting, processing, distribution and storage of information.

  • Management of Active Records

    Most government ministries and departments operate with centralised registry systems. When a central registry is used, all the organisation's records are maintained in that registry. However, as some departments and units of the ministry or department can be found in physically separate locations, each of these units might have its own registry within its locality.

  • Computerisation

    Computers are increasingly being used by government ministries and departments throughout the world. While the extent of computerisation differs markedly from one country to the next, the problems being faced in relation to the management of electronic records are fairly similar.

  • Training and Human Resources Development

    There is need to have registry and records management staff trained and fully competent. There are several levels of training available.

  • Records Appraisal and Scheduling

    Records retention schedules are the primary mechanism by which records are managed throughout their life cycle. The records retention schedule, sometimes also called a records disposition authority or a records retention and disposition schedule, is a control document.

  • Managing Semi-Current Records

    When records are referred to infrequently in the course of daily operations they are said to have become semi-current and to have reached the intermediate phase of the records life cycle. Records generally are considered semi-current if they are referred to less than once per month per cubic foot of records (30cm). At this point, best records management practices would see us closing files according to established file closure criteria and procedures in preparation for removing them from their storage places in registries or office filing cabinets to a low-cost, warehouse-style repository or storage area, most commonly referred to as a record centre.

  • File Closure

    Ideally, as has been noted, the removal of semi-current records from registries and office filing cabinets should be carried out regularly. Usually, this is done once per year as part of an annual file closure exercise. Initially, however, when semi-current records have been allowed to accumulate over a number of years, the public service organisation may have to begin with a ‘clean up’ review of all files in its several storage locations.

  • File Transfer

    To facilitate later implementation of records retention schedules, semi-current records being boxed for transfer to and storage at a records centre should be separated by disposal date and action as specified in the approved records retention schedule covering the specific files to be boxed.

  • Records Centre Operations

    A records centre is a central facility designated to store semi-current records for the duration of their retention period. The primary function of a records centre is to serve as a cost-effective and efficient alternative to storing semi-current records in agency offices or storage areas, where the cost of storage space may be relatively high. Best records management practice favours centralised storage of semi-current records in records centres to realise cost savings through economies of scale, to eliminate the need for each public service agency to relocate its semi-current storage with each office move or agency reorganisation, and to prevent the accumulation of abandoned semi-current records in storage areas for which no public service agency takes on-going responsibility.

  • The Management of Non-Current Records

    When semi-current records are no longer needed for current business, they become non-current. At this point, the records are ready for final disposal or, as it is also called, disposition. Disposal is the process through which records appraisal decisions are put into effect.

  • Records Disposal

    Disposal, or disposition, is the action taken on non-current records in accordance with an approved records retention schedule after all retention requirements have been met. Disposal is not synonymous with destruction; it can mean either destruction of the records or their transfer, in whole or in part, to Archives. Regular disposal of non-current records is necessary to avoid accumulation in registries, offices, records centres or other records storage areas of records that no longer have value to the public service organisation and to prevent loss of records of continuing value.

  • Archives

    Archives is the term used for records having permanent or indefinite value for historical or other purposes. Usually, only between five and ten per cent of an organisation's records will meet this definition. However, the term archives also applies to the institution with responsibility for the care and custody of these valuable records and to the building or other storage place in which such records are housed.

  • Organisational, Legislative and Policy Framework

    Just as in the case of managing any other public service resource, efficient and effective management of public service records and information resources requires an organisational, legislative and policy structure that establishes general authorities, responsibilities and organisational structures.

  • Appendices and Bibliography
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