The Chief Archivist's Annual report on the State of Government Recordkeeping 2009



The PDF Version of this document can be downloaded here: The Chief Archivist's Annual Report on the State of Government Recordkeeping 2009



Executive Summary

Recordkeeping and information management as normal prudent business practice


Emerging issues and opportunities in the government recordkeeping environment 2009

Matters arising from the 2009 survey of government recordkeeping

What Archives New Zealand is doing to support government recordkeeping

Summary of recommendations for public offices




This is the fifth report issued under the Public Records Act 2005 by the Chief Archivist on the state of government recordkeeping.


Since the passing of the Act, Archives New Zealand has made significant progress supporting the development of recordkeeping in government. We have established a programme of work including issuing standards, providing advice, and delivering training modules. This year I begin our audits of recordkeeping in public offices. Archives New Zealand is also leading the implementation of the government's Digital Continuity Action Plan across the public sector.


This report identifies some key opportunities for developments in recordkeeping in public offices.


Greg Goulding's signature


Greg Goulding


Acting Chief Archivist and Chief Executive, Archives New Zealand


Back to top


Executive summary


This report summarises the state of government recordkeeping and makes recommendations for action by public offices. It is issued as required under section 32 of the Public Records Act 2005 (the Act).


In this report I highlight a number of opportunities for improving records and information management in public offices. I have identified the following three general areas of opportunity for development:


Based on these opportunities I make the following recommendations:



Back to top


Recordkeeping and information management as normal prudent business practice


Records and information management has an essential role in improving the efficiency of government, eliminating duplication of effort and managing risk. Good decision-making relies on timely and accurate information. Effective information management reduces the time spent finding or recreating information and reduces storage costs by ensuring records are kept only as long as required for normal prudent business practice.


Poor information management exposes organisations to a range of risks including:


The Act establishes a framework for monitoring and improving records and information management across public offices and local authorities. Core elements of this framework include:



Back to top




This report draws on a number of different sources. Archives New Zealand conducts an annual survey across government on the state of government recordkeeping. The data collected from this survey informs this report. This survey is a reflection on respondents' assessment of the state of recordkeeping within their organisations. Respondents may be the chief executive or staff with recordkeeping responsibilities nominated by the chief executive. The report Government Recordkeeping Survey Report 2009: Public Offices – Final Report, summarises the results of the survey of public offices, and is published on Archives New Zealand's website at:


This report is also informed from monitoring the advice and guidance Archives New Zealand provides to public offices, examining the current recordkeeping environment and keeping up to date with international trends.


Back to top


Emerging issues and opportunities in the government recordkeeping environment 2009


The cost of paper and email bloat


The exponential growth of information creation has become an accepted norm in the modern workplace. Our survey results indicate that government is dealing with the legacy of information overload. The ease with which records are transmitted, printed, scanned, electronically copied or photocopied leads to a proliferation of copies of records. This causes problems for government through the cumulative cost of storage, and ad hoc management and disposal of this material as well as lack of assurance of authoritative copies.


Poor management of this paper and digital deluge poses a number of risks for public offices including:


Failure to make appraisal decisions at the point of creation of records results in high costs. One-off appraisal of a record's long-term business value is labour intensive and time-consuming when done at the end of the record's lifecycle. As a result, public offices face high costs and high risk including:


Making disposal decisions for record classes at the point of creation, and making disposal part of business as usual, mitigates the risks listed above and uses staff time and resources more effectively. By developing disposal schedules that provide comprehensive coverage, public offices ensure they are managing their records more effectively and efficiently from the point of creation.


Recordkeeping and online government


Online government in New Zealand has reached a new phase of development. There has been a growing international movement to make online government more responsive and interactive. By strategically embracing the technology and concepts known as Web 2.0, public sector offices aim to meet the growing expectation that more government services will be primarily delivered online. Online government is expected to be more convenient for citizens; use government information more efficiently; and improve citizen interaction with government overall. In New Zealand, public offices are already using Web 2.0 technologies to engage with their communities and stakeholders. In 2009, New Zealanders were able to make select committee submissions online, discuss sustainability issues on message boards, chat online with librarians for help on homework and tag New Zealand related photos on Flickr among many other things.


This kind of interactivity with the wider community forms the basis for the next development in online government, that is, maximising the use of our information resources by sharing our knowledge. Last year the government initiated a pilot programme to make non-personal government datasets available to the public for reuse. provides an opportunity for government data to be repurposed for greater community benefit and to stimulate economic growth. This is an example of a step towards more open government.


Recordkeeping supports these types of initiatives. Recordkeeping practice provides a foundation upon which new technologies may be built by supporting:



Records systems are existing resources that can be reused to help build the infrastructure for knowledge sharing. The concept of data reuse complements the concept of standardisation and interoperability of information systems.


Standardisation of information systems reduces the effort required to use and reuse information. The adoption of common technical standards means information held within systems can be shared more easily. Common standards for organising information means the collection of information created and maintained across government is of more value as a whole.


Metadata, that is contextual information about data, is essential to provide the meaning and context to information gathered and released online. Data is rendered meaningless, and therefore useless, when it does not have context. Using data without knowing its context leads to poor decision-making. If information systems and metadata are not standardised, a large investment of staff time is needed to make systems interoperable and the information within them meaningful. Standardisation supports automation of information management, which in turn enhances the combined knowledge of all parties.


Electronic recordkeeping principles and practices provide an assurance of the authority and integrity of government data released for public use. It provides evidence of a chain of custody and management process that assures the integrity of the data. Good recordkeeping assures the quality of the data being released.


Good management of information is necessary for technological advancements to be enjoyed to their fullest benefit. If not done properly, there are a number of risks involved including:



When initiating projects that involve data reuse and Web 2.0, public offices need to consider the principles of recordkeeping to mitigate risks and make the most of existing knowledge.


Shared services and continuity of government


In this time of fiscal restraint government must examine how it uses resources more effectively. At a strategic level, government functions and services are being aligned to take advantage of synergies and eradicate unnecessary duplication of effort. At an operational level public offices are consolidating and sharing technology and services to maximise the use of existing resources. Government is seeking efficiencies in a number of ways including, sharing back office services and technological infrastructure, refocusing resources for better customer services and contracting services to the private sector.


A number of opportunities exist for increased efficiency and better alignment of government functions and services. Good recordkeeping has much to contribute to these initiatives. Recordkeeping provides the continuity of government, the evidence of past practice upon which new foundations may be built and the accountability to citizens that inspires trust in government.


Realignment of government is an opportunity to harmonise recordkeeping and information sharing across the public sector. The consolidation of public offices provides the opportunity to bring information systems together to benefit all involved.


However, consolidation of central and local government offices without consideration of records management can undermine any efficiency that may be gained by aligning functions. There are a number of risks associated with changes to government structure and services. These include:



The recordkeeping implications of the use of shared services should be given careful consideration at the outset of any project. Business ownership and individual recordkeeping responsibilities must be clarified; records must be clearly identified; security restrictions must be set; and long-term value must be assessed at the outset of any agreement to share services, technological or otherwise.


Recordkeeping should be carefully considered when changing or moving functions of government. There is a substantial risk of disruption to the continuity of government services if recordkeeping and information management has not been well planned from the outset. Streamlining the functions of government should be an opportunity to better align recordkeeping and information management across public offices.




Recordkeeping should be carefully considered when changing or moving functions of government. There is a substantial risk of disruption to the continuity of government services if recordkeeping and information management has not been well planned from the outset.


back to top


Matters arising from the 2009 survey of government recordkeeping


The annual government recordkeeping survey and other monitoring activities by Archives New Zealand have highlighted three general areas of opportunity for development.


Progress on development of government recordkeeping


Overall there has been a small increase in developing formal recordkeeping programmes across public offices. Some sectors have made more significant progress than others. Government departments are the most likely to have a formal recordkeeping programme with 82 percent reporting that they have a formal programme.


Although some agencies reported that they had not adopted formal recordkeeping programmes, there were positive indications from the survey that they are moving towards formalising recordkeeping programmes. The biggest change from the results of the 2008 survey was the increase in the number of organisations who reported having procedures for retrieving, handling and reshelving physical records. There were improvements across the board in the number of agencies who have carried out risk assessments, established recordkeeping policies and procedures and gained disposal coverage.


It is also encouraging that public offices are reporting they have measured themselves against the mandatory standards issued by Archives New Zealand. The standards set minimum requirements across government. A self assessment against the standards allows public offices to identify areas for improvements and efficiencies, mitigate risks and plan effectively.


 Public offices that have assessed compliance with the Public Records Act, 2005


Public offices need to continue working towards formalising their recordkeeping policies and practices, and recordkeeping needs to be incorporated into normal prudent business practice.




Public offices should use the mandatory standards issued under the Public Records Act 2005 to assess their current recordkeeping systems, identify risks to the integrity, security, or accessibility of their records, and develop plans for addressing these risks.


Information loss and continuity of government


Loss of information is a problem experienced extensively throughout government. Three-quarters of public offices reported they have some information that is no longer accessible.


The reasons given for loss of information include:


Figure 2. Public office holdings of electronic records over 25 years old.

Lack of good information management is a key reason for information loss.
Digital obsolescence is a factor, but poor information management is at the root of information loss. The survey shows that poor information management is as much a contributing factor as aging technology.


 Public office holdings of inaccessible records


Legacy electronic systems are problematic for many public offices. The quantity and quality of information contained within legacy electronic systems is largely unknown. This makes it difficult for public offices to gain any value from existing systems. The fact that so many public offices have legacy systems indicates that access to legacy electronic information is a large ongoing problem.


There is a greater risk of information loss when investment in technology is made without consideration for how it will be managed.




Public offices should address digital continuity issues by identifying information that is at risk and taking action to address those risks.


Disposal coverage


A disposal authority aids the systematic long-term management of records at the point of their creation. Disposal is authorised under section 20 of the Act. Disposal mechanisms are outlined in the Act including destruction, transfer to Archives New Zealand or another public office, alteration, sale or discharge. Centralised authorisation of disposal ensures a whole of government approach to the long-term retention of high-value records. A disposal authority, signed off by the Chief Archivist, is a key tool for effective management of public records.


There has been growth in the development of disposal authorities over the past year. The number of public offices with disposal coverage for their core business records has increased from 33 percent to 43 percent this year. In addition, 78 percent of public offices said they have applied the General Disposal Authorities to authorise destruction of records.


The growth in coverage is encouraging, but 57 percent of public offices are still not covered by a disposal authority. It is important that public offices appraise the ongoing value of their information, identify the classes of information that must be retained and actively managed over time, and obtain disposal authority for these decisions.


During a time of administrative change, there will be a lot of disposal activity and this makes appraisal more critical to ensure continuity of information.


Once disposal authority is gained, regular and routine implementation of disposal is important to ensure the business benefits are realised.




Public offices must ensure they have comprehensive disposal coverage under the Act, including ongoing disposal schedules for their core business records.




Public offices must ensure they have robust processes for disposing of records and this is done regularly and effectively.


Back to top


What Archives New Zealand is doing to support government recordkeeping


Archives New Zealand continues to develop ways to support effective recordkeeping and information management across government. Key Archives New Zealand initiatives are outlined below.


Standards programme


Under the Act the Chief Archivist can set standards for recordkeeping. These standards present a consistent, whole of government approach to the management of records and information. Since the passing of the Act Archives New Zealand has issued three mandatory standards:



In 2009/10 Archives New Zealand has been developing an additional mandatory standard. The Disposal Standard provides a mechanism to support disposal activities within government. Well managed and implemented disposal is central to the efficient and accountable management of public records.


In addition to the mandatory standards Archives New Zealand issues discretionary standards which provide a best practice benchmark for government agencies. In 2009 Archives New Zealand began revising the discretionary Electronic Recordkeeping Systems Standard. The proposed new standard is an adoption of the International Council of Archives' standard ICA/ADRI Principles and Functional Requirements for Records in Electronic Office Environments tailored to the New Zealand government environment.


Public Records Act 2005 Audit programme


As part of its obligations under the Act, Archives New Zealand is implementing a programme to audit the recordkeeping practices of public offices. Beginning in 2010 Archives New Zealand will audit public offices on a five-year cycle to determine the extent of the public offices compliance with recordkeeping standards and with the Act.


The purpose of the audits is to ensure good recordkeeping and information management across government to support accountability and good business practice. During 2009 Archives New Zealand has worked to develop the audit programme based on the following high-level principles:



The Audit Self Assessment Application is a key element of the programme. The application will enable public offices to examine their recordkeeping capability against the major requirements of the Act, the requirements of Archives New Zealand's mandatory standards, and good business practice.


Legacy Records programme


The Legacy Records programme was launched in 2008 to help public offices comply with their obligations to manage records in their custody that are over 25 years old. The programme ensures the interests of public offices, Archives New Zealand and the New Zealand public are taken into account when decisions are made concerning legacy records.


Throughout 2009 Archives New Zealand has continued to work actively with public offices helping them to manage their legacy records. Over the past year, Archives New Zealand has made contact with all public offices to determine if they have legacy records. The Legacy Records programme is a positive step towards identifying and managing records of archival value held by public offices.


Of the public offices that have committed to the Legacy Records programme, most have incorporated it into their ongoing recordkeeping management. These approaches have enabled the public offices to maximise use of limited resources to achieve significant improvements in their overall recordkeeping capability.


Digital continuity


In 2009, the Government launched the Digital Continuity Action Plan which articulates the key high-level public sector digital continuity issues and details tactical approaches for managing them. Digital continuity is about ensuring that public sector digital information is trusted and accessible when it is needed now and in the future.


Engagement with digital continuity is uneven across the public sector. Existing initiatives cover a few specific areas of public sector information. However, they do not represent a deliberately chosen set of priorities for a broad cross-sector digital continuity framework. Archives New Zealand has a specific mandate to implement the Digital Continuity Action Plan throughout the public sector.


Targeting at-risk public sector information is a key area of interest for Archives New Zealand. By analysis of the data formats, platforms and storage media used in public offices, Archives New Zealand is working towards a staged approach to whole of public sector digital continuity which will enable the targeting of scarce resources and expertise.


Advice and support for public offices


Archives New Zealand works to support the development of recordkeeping capability within government. In addition to Archives New Zealand's training programme and government recordkeeping forums we provide advice and support to help public offices meet their requirements under the Act.


Services include:


More information can be obtained by contacting the Government Recordkeeping team on (04) 499 5595 or


Summary of recommendations for public offices




Back to top