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Create and implement a retention and disposal authority

What is a retention and disposal authority?

A retention and disposal authority is a formal instrument that identifies records, defines how long they can be kept and whether they should be destroyed or retained as State archives. State Records uses retention and disposal authorities to permit disposal of records under the State Records Act 1998.

General retention and disposal authorities

To facilitate the disposal of common administrative records and common records relating to core functions, State Records has approved a number of general retention and disposal authorities (GDAs).

Several of these general retention and disposal authorities are specific to a particular sector of government.

The full list of current general disposal authorities, arranged by the jurisdiction they apply to, can be accessed via State Records' disposal overview page.

Functional retention and disposal authorities

If you do not have disposal authorisation for your core records (those that document business unique to your organisation) you also need to develop a functional retention and disposal authority to ensure that these records are disposed of in accordance with legal requirements. Once this functional retention and disposal authority is in place, you can use it, in conjunction with the general retention and disposal authorities, to ensure that all of your records have adequate disposal coverage.

State Records has recently redeveloped its Procedures for Disposal Authorisation. These guidelines provide the step by step guidance required to help public offices prepare a functional retention and disposal authority for approval by State Records. They include specific guidance about the types of documentation you need to submit to State Records to support your retention and disposal authority.

InformationTip: Coverage of administrative functions
If you are doing DIRKS to develop a functional retention and disposal authority, you do not have to assess the requirements of the administrative functions your organisation performs, as the records from these functions are covered by the general retention and disposal authorities.

Developing a functional retention and disposal authority

The process of developing a disposal authority draws on activities covered in Steps A-C of the methodology, and part of Step D.

InformationTip: Consider the types of disposal documentation you require to meet State Records and your own requirements
Functional retention and disposal authorities are required to be prepared in a particular format in order to obtain disposal authorisation under the State Records Act. This format may not necessarily be the most appropriate for your own implementation purposes.
It is worth thinking up front about whether the format required for approval is best for conveying disposal requirements within your organisation and for ongoing management of disposal. It may be better during implementation to incorporate the authorised decisions into a records management software application and to convey disposal requirements through internal procedures and guidelines which are more user friendly. Before you begin, plan for how you intend to implement and maintain the disposal authority.

Step A: Preliminary investigation

To obtain disposal authorisation, you will need to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the business your organisation performs. The preliminary investigation will enable you to understand how and why business is performed in your organisation and the broad legal requirements to which your organisation is subject. You will also overview the risks faced by different areas of your business and gain an understanding of the stakeholders that have an influence on your business operations.

If you want disposal authorisation to be extended to legacy (old) records, you will need to do some research into the history of your organisation or the particular function or area of business in Step A, and build up a base of knowledge about past activities.

Step B: Analysis of business activity

Step B is an important step in developing a functional retention and disposal authority. You learn more about business processes and practices in this step, and the records that are generated from them. When business is analysed, you can create a framework of functions, activities and transactions, known as a business classification scheme, which forms the structural basis for your retention and disposal authority. All functions and activities referenced in the disposal authority must be adequately described.

Step C: Identification of recordkeeping requirements

Step C is a critical step in obtaining disposal authorisation. In this step you examine the particular business and regulatory requirements and community expectations that relate to your business. These requirements may indicate that records need to be created, captured, maintained, accessed in certain ways or disposed of after particular periods. They may also indicate the content that should be found in the records, their quality and form.

Collecting such information is essential so that you know what records the organisation is likely to create (and what they should be creating to meet their requirements). You can then identify suitable classes of records and determine appropriate retention periods and disposal actions for inclusion in your retention and disposal authority.

Step D: Assessment of existing systems

Step D - It is useful to do some assessment of existing recordkeeping systems when developing your retention and disposal authority. It allows you to see which systems document particular functions and activities, and also allows you to check that you have full disposal coverage for all of the records created or likely to be created by your organisation.

Implementing retention and disposal authorities

Steps D-G of the DIRKS methodology can assist you in:

  • defining the implementation issues with the recordkeeping systems you already have
  • deciding on the strategies required to implement retention and disposal authorities successfully
  • designing or redesigning software and necessary system tools to support authorities, and
  • implementing authorities effectively in your organisation.

Step D: Assessment of existing systems

Step D can assist you with implementation as it shows you how to assess your existing systems to determine how well they are able to incorporate your retention and disposal authorities and perform disposal actions.

QuestionsExample: Assessing your system's capacity to administer disposal

Ask a range of questions that will enable you to assess your system's capacity to administer disposal, and administer disposal in a manner that is appropriate to your operational needs and business requirements:

  • can the system apply disposal information to each record or class of records?
  • in a database environment where all like records may have the same retention period, are business rules concerning disposal currently applied to govern management of the records as a whole?
  • can disposal actions be automatically triggered?
  • is the system capable of calculating disposal dates from relevant triggers?
  • can system generated reminder messages about disposal be automatically sent to relevant staff members?
  • can system users sentence records at creation?
  • is disposal functionality restricted to records staff only?
  • can retention and disposal authorities be loaded into business software or into separate records management software which has an interface to the business software?

If your current systems cannot provide the functionality you require in relation to disposal, this is a gap you will need to address in Steps E and F.

Remember to continue to think broadly in your system assessment, and just don't focus on the technical components of your system. You should also assess how well disposal is integrated into the system's policies, procedures and training programs. If disposal is not reflected in these components of your system, you may want to redress this in Steps E and F of the methodology.

QuestionsExample: Integration with policies, procedures and training

You may want to ask:

  • can all appropriate staff access retention and disposal authorities?
  • do they know how to use them?
  • are procedures in place to ensure that retention and disposal authorities are maintained and updated when required?

Once you have determined whether your systems are capable of meeting these requirements or not, you will be able to decide whether you need to undertake further steps of the DIRKS methodology to redesign your systems so that they can effectively implement the retention and disposal authorities.

Step E: Identification of strategies for recordkeeping

Step E involves assessing the best strategies for implementing retention and disposal authorities in your organisation. Based on a knowledge of your existing systems and practices, as well as your recordkeeping requirements, in Step E you can examine the policy, design, standards and implementation strategies to determine how best to implement retention and disposal authorities in your organisation.

QuestionsExample: The policy strategy
If only one or two staff are going to perform disposal operations in your organisation, you may choose the policy strategy and choose to develop a strong framework of rules and guidance to help them perform their disposal operations.

QuestionsExample: The design strategy
If you would like to automate disposal as much as possible, and facilitate the sentencing of records at their creation, you would adopt the design strategy and plan to build technical components of your system that better accommodate disposal and enable its automation.

Step F: Design of a recordkeeping system

Step F involves determining the best means to incorporate retention and disposal authorities into the design of your recordkeeping systems.

Depending on your previously identified requirements, to incorporate retention and disposal authorities in your system design you may need to:

  • develop the technical components of systems so that they can incorporate retention and disposal authorities and utilise them in a manner that is appropriate to your needs and operations (design strategy)
  • develop a training program to educate staff about the proper use of retention and disposal authorities (implementation strategy), and
  • develop organisation-wide rules and guidance about how disposal operates in your organisation (policy strategy).

QuestionsExample: Link disposal to files at creation
You may want to be able to link disposal decisions to files when they are created so that the system can send a message to the appropriate staff member when the file is ready for disposal. You will need to design or configure your system to be able to perform this.

Step G: Implementation of a recordkeeping system

Step G is the physical implementation of the strategies to ensure the retention and disposal authorities are successfully introduced. This includes ensuring that it is acceptable to business units. It also includes training and managing staff who are performing sentencing or carrying out disposal actions in these important tasks. Leaving these to untrained staff can leave your organisation exposed to significant risk.

Reviewing a retention and disposal authority

Step H: Post implementation review

Step H - If changes are required to functional retention and disposal authorities they must be submitted to State Records and authorised before the changes can be implemented. Implementation of disposal decisions that have not been authorised constitute an offence under the

State Records Act 1998 and can incur penalties. Both changes in terms of updates and major reviews require authorisation and you should consult State Records before undertaking a review.

Functional retention and disposal authorities should be reviewed whenever there is a major change (for example, a change in functional responsibilities or new legislation). In addition, reviews of disposal authorities should be undertaken on at least a 5 year cycle to account for changes in recordkeeping requirements.

Implementation of disposal authorities should also be the focus of ongoing review, to ensure the effectiveness of organisational disposal operations.

Further information

For further information about developing functional retention and disposal authorities, see State Records' Procedures for Disposal Authorisation.