Corruption watchdog issues guide on proper record keeping

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday April 2, 2020

Adobe

Queensland’s agency for government record keeping and the state corruption watchdog have teamed up to produce a guide that explains the requirements and benefits of effective record keeping.

Under Queensland’s Public Records Act 2002, public authorities — including departments, government-owned corporations, and local governments — are required to keep records of their activities.

The new guide from the Queensland State Archives and the Crime and Corruption Commission notes adequate management of records can help public sector bodies “make good decisions”, while protecting them against accusations of wrongdoing. It also supports business practices, and promotes confidence in information.

Taking a systematic approach to good record keeping can also “significantly reduce the risk of corruption”, according to the advice.

“Inadequate management of public records can constitute corruption. It can also result in dismissal and/or civil legal action against the individual and organisation involved,” it states.

Last year South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander slammed SA Health for its poor record keeping practices and “troubling ambiguity” surrounding the agency’s operations.

SA’s City of Playford was also criticised for weaknesses in record keeping last year that left the council “susceptible to corruption, misconduct or maladministration”.

Back in 2017, Victorian Auditor General Andrew Greaves published a report into records management oversight from the Public Record Office Victoria, and the practices at the departments of Education and Training and Health and Human Services. He identified major issues that exposed the state government to fraud and other, more serious crimes.

While the chief executive of a department or other public authority is responsible for ensuring public records are made and kept, records can only be disposed of when authorised to do so by the State Archivist or another legal authority.

The new guidance notes that when record keeping, public servants should ask themselves:

  • Do I have all the information needed to document the activity and make sense of the content?
  • Will my record be able to be understood by other people, is the information clear, and is the context in which the records were created and used apparent?
  • Is this a true depiction of the activity concerned?
  • Can my record be proven and trusted to be what it says it is, and has it been created and used in the way it says it was created and used?
  • Is it safe from unauthorised access, modification or destruction?
  • Will anyone coming after me be able to use this record once I have finished with it?
  • Will people be able to find it when it’s needed, because I’ve used a logical title and search terms?
  • Can it be accessed only by those people with a genuine business need? Is it protected from unauthorised access?
  • Do I have proper authority to dispose of these records?
  • Are they subject to a disposal freeze, or an access application under RTI or the IP Act?
  • Are they or could they be required for legal proceedings in the future?

 

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