- What is a Government Record?
- How long do records have to be kept?
- Are there guidelines for retention?
- Is email considered a government record and what do I do with it?
- Why should we schedule our records?
- Our office has records that don’t need to be kept very long. Do we have to schedule them?
- Who is responsible for scheduling records?
- Can I destroy records?
- What should I do with extra copies that don’t need to be kept?
- What does ATIPP have to do with records/information management?
As defined in the Management of Information Act, a government record is a record created by or received by a public body in the conduct of its affairs and includes a cabinet record, transitory record and an abandoned record. Government records are required to
- Control, support or document the delivery of programs or services
- Support the decision making process
- Document activities of the department
The Management of Information Act requires that the disposal of government records must be authorized by the Government Records Committee. A records retention and disposal schedule is the preferred authorization tool. For more information on government records see the For Your Information: Identifying and Disposing of Government Records.
Some records have specific retention periods set by legislation, regulation or professional standards; however, most do not.
How long a record should be kept depends on the type of record and the circumstances of its creation and use, including why it was created. Records provide evidence of ‘who, what, when and why’ something happened. To determine how long they may be needed, employees who are responsible for records must be aware of any legislation or policies specifying retention periods. They should also consider:
- the use of the record(s) in accounting for actions and decisions;
- the use of the record in providing evidence of financial or contractual obligations to avoid dispute and/or protect against liability; and
- the longer-term need for information that supports program planning and evaluation.
Retention periods are usually applied to groups (series) of related records, rather than individual files. A schedule of retention periods and disposal decisions is called a “Records Retention and Disposal Schedule”. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has a standard records retention and disposal schedule for its corporate records – called the Corporate Records and Information Management Standard (C-RIMS).
Records retention and disposal schedules for operational records, which are unique to each division and program within departments and public bodies, should be developed by records personnel in those departments and public bodies, in collaboration with the creators and users of the records, and the IM Advisors in the OCIO. Guidelines are being developed by the Information Management Division to assist departments and public bodies in developing retention and disposal schedules. Release drafts will be posted on this Website for feedback.
Retention periods are documented in records retention and disposal schedules, and, upon approval by the Public Records Committee, these schedules serve as ongoing legal authorities for retention and disposition of records.
When departments are preparing records schedules, IM Advisors from the OCIO can provide guidance on typical retention periods for records commonly held by government offices.
C-RIMS governs administrative records. Otherwise, retention periods should be based on specific needs and requirements of the program responsible for the records. See the above FAQ, “How long do records have to be kept?”
Whether a document is a record, as defined in legislation, or not is not dependent upon its format. Therefore email that contains information documenting some element of government function or activity should be treated in the same manner as a paper document bearing the same information. For more detailed information refer to the Email Policy of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
- Records retention and disposal schedules identify records, and provide an important inventory needed for planning, protecting and providing access to records.
- Retention requirements may affect how records are kept (ie., their arrangement or format), so these requirements should be known from the time the records are created.
- Retention requirements should also be understood and taken into account when considering converting records to microfilm or digital images for current business purposes.
- The retention requirements set out in records schedules are business requirements that should be included in the planning of electronic systems.
- Records schedules identify records of archival value, and this enables their permanent preservation by the Provincial Archives .
Once records retention and disposal schedules have been developed and approved by the PRC they provide a plan for managing records and information.
All public records should be scheduled, regardless of how long they need to be kept. Schedules enable regular disposal of records as soon as all requirements to retain them have ended. Many routine administrative records are retained for short periods of time, and some records are scheduled for immediate disposition. See CRIMS for scheduling of administrative records.
It is best to schedule all the records of an office at the same time. This provides a complete picture, and makes it easier to determine appropriate retention periods for each series or group of records.
Government departments and public bodies are responsible for preparing records schedules for records in their custody or under their control. Schedules are prepared in consultation with the Information Management Branch of the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Provincial Archives . The Government Records Committee approves schedules.
Records should only be destroyed in accordance with approved records schedules, or by obtaining approval from the Government Records Committee for a direct disposal. For further information on disposal contact the Provincial Records Centre, Office of the Chief Information Officer
Duplicate copies, spoiled photocopies and other transitory material such as message slips or rough notes in paper form, should be destroyed through a shredding process that ensures that copies of confidential records will be handled with the same security as all other government records.
The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPP) provides a legal right of access to information held by public bodies (government), subject to certain exceptions, and protection of personal information that government may collect, use and disclose. It requires public bodies to respond to requests for access to information according to the provisions of the Act.
ATIPP does not address the creation, retention and disposition of government records. The OCIO and The Rooms Provincial Archives set out these requirements. Proper information management practices enable government to locate information and respond to access requests. Also, documentation of the records and information holdings of government make access to information more effective.