Government recordkeeping failing

Audit office finds holes in government agencies

An audit of Australian government agencies has found standards around digital and physical recordkeeping lacking, with each agency audited failing to manage an electronic corporate recordkeeping system in accordance with established policy.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report "Recordkeeping including the Management of Electronic Records", released on October 12, audited the recordkeeping systems and processes in the Attorney-General's Department, the Australian Electoral Commission and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The report states none of the agencies had given adequate consideration to recordkeeping risks and the agencies should assess these risks in the context of a broader risk management framework.

"Another common issue identified was the need for entities to identify, in the context of business continuity planning, their vital records and to take steps designed to ensure these records are accessible and usable within specified timeframes in the event of a disaster," the report states.

"Each agency was found to use an electronic corporate recordkeeping system that in most cases did not recognize and manage these systems as part of the corporate recordkeeping framework and as a consequence the records held in the majority of the electronic systems reviewed as part of the audit were not being managed in accordance with the entity's recordkeeping policy.

"The ANAO considered that none of the entities had given adequate consideration to their recordkeeping risks ...Another common issue identified was the need for entities to identify, in the context of business continuity planning, their vital records and to take steps designed to ensure these records are accessible and usable within specified timeframes in the event of a disaster."

As a result of the audit the National Archives of Australia has been recommended to define minimum recordkeeping requirements agencies should comply with to meet both legal and business requirements, develop guidance as a reference for agencies when developing their own "entity-specific recordkeeping material" and coordinate and publish legislation, policies, standards and advice on agency recordkeeping responsibilities.

In response to the audit the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet agreed minimum standards developed by the National Archives of Australia will allow agencies to better focus on specific requirements and improve consistency of policy and practice across the Australian Public Service.

The Attorney-General's department stated the National Archives will have to use a managed and sustainable program to ensure agencies "are engaged in an effective and consultative manner", however recommended the National Archives "needs to adopt an approach that meets the practical recordkeeping needs of agencies, not high-level statements, if its advice is to be of value or use".

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