Records Management is that field of general administrative management which aims at attaining economy and efficiency in the creation, receipt, maintenance, use, storage and the disposal of records during their entire life cycle.
What is a record?
A record is any material that contains information, example: any paper, correspondence, book, microfilm, card, magnetic tape, CD-ROMs, floppy disk, map or any copy of a print out, that has been created or received by an organization or its successors . Records are essential in the conduct of the day-to-day activities of all organisations. They provide evidence and information about these activities.
The five stages in the life cycle of a record
Records management provides a framework to enable these actions to be undertaken. It aims to ensure that:-
records serve the purposes for which they were created;
records are managed in an effective and efficient way;
records are housed in such a way that they should be retrieved quickly;
the growth of records is controlled at their very inception;
the costs of keeping records are at the lowest possible;
there be regular disposal of non current records (PRAC, Retention Schedule);
records of archival value are retained permanently;
records which are needed for legal, administrative and fiscal purposes are retained; and
records are kept in a secure place.
In order to reach its
goal, that is, to achieve economy and efficiency in the creation, maintenance,
use and the disposal of records, a good records management programme is needed.
This programme includes, amongst others, a performing Records Centre.
The Records Centre
The Records Centre has been created under Section 25 of the National Archives Act No. 22 of 1999; it is an important component of the National Archives. The Records Centre is administered by a Records Manager.
The Records Centre plays a significant role in the management of public sector records. It supports the entire records management process. The Records Centre houses non-current records which have been appraised by the Public Records Appraisal Committee. It is in fact the intermediate repository to keep non-current records according to established norms of preservation. Once these records are received, they are treated before they are sent to the National Archives for permanent preservation.
Records Centre is a treatment station where the following operations are carried out:
- receipt of records from creating/depositing agencies;
- cleaning and disinfecting of the records;
- listing, working out of checklists and inventories of the records;
- arranging the records according to the Principle of Provenance and Original Order; and
- placing the records in acid-free boxes and other containers and shelving them.
Records kept at the Records Centre are not made available for consultation to the public during their stay there.
The main objectives for the establishment of the Records Centre are to:-
- ensure the effective and efficient management of non-current public records that are generated by Government organisations in the course of their day-to-day activities;
- ensure that records which are no longer in active use are subjected to effective procedures; for the identification of those which can be destroyed at the end of agreed retention periods, and those which should be transferred to the National Archives for permanent preservation;
- provide relatively cheaper storage space, facility and security for certain types of records that regularly accumulate in the Government organisations and must be held for long periods of time; and
- accommodate special collections of records of defunct agencies or of terminated activities.
Public Records Appraisal Committee (PRAC)
The appraisal of non-current public records is governed by PART III of the National Archives Act No.22 of 1999 . At the National Archives of Mauritius, the Public Records Appraisal Committee controls and appraises non-current records in every public or statutory body.
The members of this Committee are:
- The Director of the National Archives as Chairman;
- A representative of the Attorney General's Office;
- A representative of the National Audit Office;
- The Director of Statistics or his/her representative;
- A representative of the National Library;
- A historian from the Mauritius Institute of Education;
- A historian from the University of Mauritius; and
- A historian from a registered History Association.
The objectives of the Public Records Appraisal Committee in pursuance of its appraisal activities are to:-
Identify those records which are deemed to have enduring value
Preserve records with permanent and historical value for reference and research
Overcome space problems in registries and other record rooms of Government departments
Reduce Government expenditure on personnel, building, storage and shelving equipment that are necessary to control, keep and maintain records
Upgrade efficiency in Government organisations where only active records necessary for daily administration are kept and
Safeguard documents of a historical, administrative or legal import against ill-advised destruction.
Whenever a Government institution or statutory body wants to dispose of its non-current records, the responsible officer should inform the Director of the National Archives by way of an official letter. The latter will afterwards request the former to prepare and submit a list (s) of records to be disposed of as per the Second Schedule of the Government Notice No. 28 of 2002
A meeting will afterwards be convened with all the members of the Committee to examine the list(s) of records, in the presence of a representative of the public or statutory body. The latter will have to bring a specimen of each item of records mentioned in the list. With regard to the records to be disposed of or preserved, the representative will have to answer to questions asked by members of the Committee on the enduring value and the importance of the documents.
The Public Records Appraisal Committee, after consultation and deliberation among its members, will decide on the mode of disposal. All members must unanimously agree with respect to the decision taken, regarding the records: retention for a limited period, transfer to the National Archives or outright destruction. Where the Committee decides that a public record is to be destroyed, it has to give public notice of its decision in the Government Gazette and in two daily newspapers. Any person may object to the destruction of that public record within 30 days of the publication of the notice. Where no objection is received after the said period of 30 days, the responsible officer of the public body shall cause the record to be burnt up in the presence of any officer deputed by him. The officer present at the destruction of the public record shall certify to the Director of the National Archives that the public record has been duly destroyed, in the form specified in the Third Schedule of Government Notice No.28 of 2002