Records Management in Local Government

Implementation of recordkeeping plans is poor

Across the LGs we sampled, we found weaknesses in:

  • regular and thorough records training
  • monitoring of staff recordkeeping practice 
  • timely disposal of records.

This demonstrates that LGs are not using key tools effectively to support the implementation of RKPs.

More regular and thorough records training is needed

All of the LGs we reviewed provided some records management training to their staff. However, only EMRC included it as part of a formal induction process, with the rest providing training within a few months of starting the job. None of them regularly provided refresher training, and 3 of the 4 LGs did not deliver job-specific records training. Job-specific records training is important because different areas of the LG will have different records management requirements. For example, property planning records will be managed differently to human resource records. Table 2 illustrates training provided by the sampled LGs.

We noted the 4 LGs had poor records of which staff had completed records management training. Without regular and sufficiently detailed training, staff may not fully understand their record keeping responsibilities or how to meet them. This may lead to records being inadvertently lost, altered or destroyed.

LGs do limited monitoring of staff records management practices

None of the LGs were periodically reviewing their recordkeeping practice. Canning, Mosman Park and Toodyay performed limited monitoring of the records management practices of their staff. EMRC was not doing any monitoring. The State Records Commission requires regular review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the recordkeeping training program to highlight any areas of records management that need attention or improvement. A practical way to review the effectiveness of training is by monitoring recordkeeping practices. When we spoke to LGs they hadn’t considered regular review as an important tool to assess good recordkeeping. Regular review could include:

  • checking location of physical records
  • monitoring that key business records have been captured
  • checking for storage of digital records outside approved records management systems
  • checking contractor records management practices.

Records are often held too long

The SRO’s publication General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records sets out the minimum times for retention of various types of records. Each of our sampled LGs had recognised this disposal authority in their RKPs but none were effectively implementing it. None were disposing of digital records and only Toodyay and Mosman Park were disposing of physical records in accordance with the disposal authority.

Canning had placed its disposal program on hold at the time of our audit and advised they were behind in conducting retention and disposal activities. Canning stores the bulk of its physical records in contracted offsite storage facilities. Keeping records for too long creates unnecessary storage costs, especially for physical records but also for digital records.

If records are held too long, record searches can become inefficient and agencies can potentially expose themselves to incidents of personal data breaches if they store sensitive records beyond prescribed periods. To avoid unnecessary storage costs, LGs should regularly review onsite and offsite physical and digital records in line with the disposal authority.

[1] State Records Office, 2018, Born Digital: Managing Government Information and Data, p.9.

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