State Records Home
Personal tools

Identifying recordkeeping requirements

Overview: This section explores how to use the sources you have collected to find the recordkeeping requirements that are likely to apply to your organisation. These could be broad or specific, implicit or explicit, and could be regulatory, business or community requirements. The process of identifying recordkeeping requirements also involves identifying the types of requirement they are so that you can build mechanisms to meet these requirements into your recordkeeping systems.

Broad or specific?

Requirements may be:

  • specific, with applicability to a particular record or group of records, or
  • very broad, applying to whole functions, types of records or the organisation, industry or state as a whole.

QuestionsExample: Broad or specific requirements
The requirement in the Ombudsman's Principles of Administrative Good Conduct for public officials to 'create and maintain full and accurate records which document their activities and decisions, plus the reasons for those decisions' is a very broad recordkeeping requirement that would apply to any area of organisational activity involving decision making and in any public office in NSW.
There is a requirement in the State Records Act 1998, s.61 for State Records to 'keep a register of access directions in force under this Act. The register must be accessible to all free of charge.' This requirement is a very specific recordkeeping requirement, only applying to one record. In this case it only applies to State Records and not to any other organisation.

Legislation that applies across a broad range of public offices can also contain broad recordkeeping requirements.

QuestionsExample: Requirements applicable across the sector or jurisdiction
The following are examples of legislation that contain recordkeeping requirements and are applicable across the NSW public sector:
* Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998
* Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000
* Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, and
* State Records Act 1998.
The following are examples of legislation that may apply to a particular jurisdiction:
* Local Government Act 1993, and
* Public Sector Employment and Management Act 2002.

Likewise best practice standards or whole of government policies (see Industry and best practice standards) may introduce a range of broad recordkeeping requirements.

In NSW the broad requirements for 'full and accurate' records are articulated in the Standard on Full and Accurate Records. See also Introducing DIRKS - Characteristics and functionality of systems that keep records for an outline of some general requirements for recordkeeping systems.

Explicit or implicit?

Requirements can be explicit, but are more often implicit.

QuestionsExample: Explicit or implicit requirements
An explicit requirement for creation and access might be that 'the organisation must create a register of licences and members of the public must be given access to it.'
Implicit in this statement is that the records within the register must be captured and maintained for a certain period of time, so that access is possible.

Identify regulatory, business or community requirements

Business needs, accountability requirements and community expectations all contribute to the requirements for organisational recordkeeping. Some requirements may arise from a combination of these.

Regulatory business or community requirements

Regulatory requirements

What are regulatory requirements?

Regulatory requirements are imposed upon an organisation by legislation, regulation, whole-of-government policy, standards or similar instruments.

QuestionsExample: Regulatory requirement
"A cash book shall be kept in every accounting office and all receipts and payments and amounts deposited in the bank shall be recorded therein." (Treasurer’s Directions 400.01.)

Most relevant sources

The Australasian Legal Information Institute databases (AustLII) or the Government of NSW Legislation Home Page are useful access points for legislation relevant to your organisation. Similar searches should be conducted of relevant industry regulations and standards although, if such resources are not available in electronic form, manual searches may need to be conducted. A number of standards, including those available through Standards Australia, are accessible (or can be ordered) online.

Determine regulatory requirements

Determining regulatory requirements for recordkeeping involves looking at authoritative documentary sources (such as legislation and whole of government rules, guidelines, directives, standards, codes of practice and policies) and locating where there are requirements for the creation or management of records.

Look for regulatory requirements that relate to:

  • the entire industry or business sector in which your organisation operates
  • the high-level business functions of your organisation, and
  • specific activities or transactions carried out by your organisation.

Identify explicit recordkeeping requirements first. One way to identify explicit requirements is to scan the text of relevant sources for terms such as record, keep/kept, document, preserve, maintain, evidence, destroy, information, store, transfer, year, dispose, retain, month, writing/written etc. Also look for references to specific types of records, e.g. submission, application, register, inventory, appeal, minutes etc. This is especially efficient if the sources are available in electronic form and searches can be performed online.

Implicit regulatory requirements will be more difficult to ascertain. While it is a time-consuming exercise, searching manually through the relevant legislation, formal directives and standards for implicit references to recordkeeping requirements is beneficial to the identification process. It provides a means of acquiring much of the contextual information you need to fully understand your organisation's regulatory environment.

Of course, this approach can also be supplemented by an examination of corporate policies and procedures, and by interviewing personnel who are familiar with the relevant pieces of legislation, formal directives and industry standards, such as accountants, senior officers and legal staff.

Business requirements

What is a business requirement?

A business requirement supports the efficient and effective performance of an organisation’s day-to-day work and on going activities. These are the records the organisation needs to carry out its business.

QuestionsExample: Business requirement
Both schools and universities create and maintain records of student enrolments and progress so they can allocate and manage resources for delivering courses and determine student eligibility for graduation and awards.

QuestionsExample: Remember requirements to keep electronic records accessible
Your organisation will have a business requirement to keep its electronic records accessible for as long as they are required to meet business needs. This requirement is also included in s14 of the State Records Act 1998.
It is important to consider such accessibility requirements now, and then to ascertain whether all your current systems will enable you to meet this need.

Most relevant sources

Recordkeeping requirements that support business needs are likely to be identified through an organisation's enabling legislation or other instruments of authority (business requirements reflected in regulatory sources), or as a routine part of establishing and maintaining its operations.

QuestionsExample: Form and content often a business requirement
Organisations that manage funds will automatically identify a business requirement to make and keep evidence of the receipt and expenditure of those funds as this is a routine part of conducting financial affairs and they need the records for accountability. This is likely to be in regulatory sources anyway. However, the form and content of evidence will vary depending on an organisation's functions, corporate culture and external environment. (The records maintained by the NSW Treasury will differ from those maintained by a council or a hospital).

QuestionsExample: Business requirement derived from interview
You may interview someone in the organisation responsible for managing training course enrolments. In the interview you may discover that they have had a number of complaints about how slow staff are in responding to telephone enquiries about enrolments.
They may identify the need for keeping a list of participants enrolled as it takes less time in referring to the list than going through individual registration forms. This record is required for business reasons as it makes the process of answering enquiries more efficient.

QuestionsExample: Needs for AGLS metadata

Many NSW government agencies are implementing AGLS metadata as part of their website design and management. In Step C you may want to consider your organisation's needs in relation to this metadata, and determine how different recordkeeping strategies can help you to achieve your AGLS requirements.

In Step C you could consider the different AGLS requirements that may relate to different areas of your business. For example, if one business area publishes a lot of information to the web, they should be considering resource discovery metadata to improve the online accessibility of this information. In your Step C assessments you should identify such needs and then consider in subsequent steps how the recordkeeping of your organisation can support these needs. For example, in Step C and in subsequent steps you may want to ask:

  • what specific types of resource discovery metadata are required to support different web publications in our organisation?
  • who should or does capture or create this metadata?
  • can some of this metadata be derived from recordkeeping systems and processes?
  • can the recordkeeping system be designed to interface with our content management system, to enable automatic creation of AGLS metadata?
  • what processes and training can we develop as part of our recordkeeping system development to support our needs for AGLS metadata?

For more information about AGLS, see the Government Chief Information Office website.

Determine business requirements

Determining business requirements for recordkeeping involves looking at corporate documentary sources (such as business plans, corporate policies and procedures, and organisational reports) and locating where there are requirements for the creation or management of records.

Identify explicit and implicit recordkeeping requirements as outlined for determining regulatory requirements above.

Another useful way to identify business requirements is to consider the chain of evidence an organisation or individual needs to substantiate a sequence of decisions or actions, that is, processes. You may have considered this to some extent in Step B.

QuestionsExample: Chain of evidence required
Copies of invoices sent provide evidence of income due in return for goods or services rendered.

During Step C, you will also need to closely examine existing policies, guidelines, work procedure manuals and standard operating procedures to identify when records relating to organisational functions and activities are created. You will then need to interview business area experts within the relevant functional areas to determine:

  • why these records are created
  • how long the records remain active
  • how long the records are required for reference or ongoing use
  • whether any other business units may also use the records, and
  • who might use these records in the future, and when might they use them.
Example: Organising and conducting a meeting
Transaction Record Business need
Determine time and venue of meeting Emails between participants Need to keep until meeting has been arranged
Book meeting room Email requestEmail confirmation Need to keep until meeting has been held, and possibly for reference when booking next meeting
Write agenda Agenda Need to keep until meeting has been held
Circulate agenda, agenda papers and minutes of previous meeting Email invitation with attachments Need to keep for as long as minutes, as evidence that participants were invited to meeting
Record apologies Minutes Need to keep at least until next meeting, but probably longer – as evidence of deliberations and decisions. Business need depends on work of the committee, how long its projects run, how long minutes are required for reference etc. May also be a regulatory requirement for minutes.
Record meeting business and discussions Minutes
Schedule next meeting Minutes
Close meeting Minutes

Community expectations

What is a community expectation?

A community expectation for records creation, management and disposal refers to a requirement from the general public or a stakeholder group within the community. It indicates what records they expect you to create and maintain. Expectations reflect either an interest in the records themselves as sources for research, or the desire for government to account for its administrative affairs.

QuestionsExample: Community expectation
It is a well recognised community expectation that government will create and keep records of all financial expenditure and commitment of expenditure. The community, as taxpayers, reasonably have this expectation.

Most relevant sources

Documentary sources that may give expression to the community's interests in records include:

  • minutes of consultative meetings
  • proceedings of advisory board or council meetings (where impressions of community expectations are reported)
  • representations
  • parliamentary debates
  • media monitoring exercises, or
  • the organisation's website (visitor logs or users questionnaires).

You may also obtain further guidance from staff in the business areas who are aware of community expectations that should be considered in relation to their activities. Consultation with stakeholder representatives should be conducted if sufficient information on their expectations is not available internally, and to foster understanding with the stakeholders.

Determine community expectations

Community expectations expressed by a wide range of external stakeholders can give rise to recordkeeping requirements that may or may not be reflected in business and regulatory requirements.

There are times where there is concern in the community about the interpretation and/or application of particular laws or the administrative actions taken by government. Both existing community bodies, or new advocacy or interest groups will express their views and concerns to the government in office. Individuals and groups from the media can also be part of this process. An organisation may consult with and form an ongoing relationship with these groups to provide briefings and receive feedback in return.

Some organisations also have established relationships with researchers, historical groups or enthusiasts who take a particular interest in the organisation’s archives. Community views may affect government policy informally. Alternatively, the activities of these groups may impact more formally on the process of government and eventually their views can be transformed into formal accountability requirements.

Nonetheless, it is often difficult to discern what evidence an organisation should create and keep to satisfy community expectations until it fails to anticipate or recognise an interest in some way and attracts public criticism. Evidence of potential value will include policy documents and general correspondence that reveal government's changing stance on a particular issue or a community's shifting response over time. The value of such records becomes obvious when the histories of particular organisations, functions or activities are commissioned.

Community expectations may become apparent when, for example:

  • the organisation receives a request under the Government Information (Public Access) Act (GIPA) for planning applications from 1985
  • a newspaper article highlights the value of particular files for statistical research
  • debate in Parliament criticises a department for destroying application files two months after grants are allocated, or
  • a local committee for the preservation of historic buildings writes to the Minister explaining their interest in maps, plans and aerial photographs of a particular site or area.

Identify types of recordkeeping requirements

You also need to recognise different types of recordkeeping requirements so that you can plan how to satisfy them. The following table shows a range of types of recordkeeping requirements and examples of each.

Type of recordkeeping requirement Example
Creation of a record 'A cash book must be created.'
Capture and maintenance of a record 'Submissions received by the organisation must be registered.''A record of the conversation must be kept.'
Retention and disposal of a record (could be expressed in a number of ways as shown below)
- in terms of the record's retention for a set period 'Leave records must be kept for at least 6 years.''The record must be kept for the lifetime of the child.'
- in terms of the record's retention for an extended period 'These records should be retained permanently.''The records must be retained as State archives.'
- in terms of the record's destruction 'The records of the check must be destroyed within X months.'
Access to a record 'Licensees should not be given access to the records of other licensees.'
The form a record should take 'A cash book should be created''A register must be kept'
The content a record should contain 'The Register must contain details of the person's name, current address, interests..'
The quality of the record 'Details in the register should be accurate and authenticated by a senior officer.'

Required recordkeeping functionality

There are also recordkeeping requirements that relate to the functionality a system should have to support good recordkeeping. These requirements are just as important, as they ensure that records are created and maintained in appropriate ways to ensure they function as evidence. For more information about required recordkeeping system functionality, see Introducing DIRKS - Characteristics and functionality of recordkeeping systems. Step D - Sources for Step D assessment also contains additional information on these system requirements.