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Recordkeeping In Brief 4 - Using consultants for records management

If you are undertaking a records management project you have a number of options in how you accomplish this project. You may be able to use existing staff, hire temporary staff, or you may need to seek the services of a consultant.

Overview

The first thing you need to do is to consider what appropriate skills and knowledge are available within your public office and whether the skilled staff have the time to take on your project. You also need to consider the resources and facilities you have available to you. If you have records of a very sensitive nature, you should consider the risks involved in hiring external expertise.

If staff do not have sufficient expertise or time, and you have adequate funding, you may wish to seek the services of a consultant. This Recordkeeping in Brief looks at what steps you should take in hiring a consultant, and what issues your public office should address.

Where to find consultants

In the past the State Records Authority of New South Wales maintained a list of records management consultants to assist agencies in contacting consultants. The list was neither a recommendation nor an endorsement of individual consultants. We have discontinued this practice.

The Records Management Association of Australia (RMAA) publishes a Product Directory on its website at www.rmaa.com.au which contains a list of consultants.

Selecting consultants

Under the Public Sector Management (Goods and Services) Regulation Act 1995 (and subsequent updates) NSW State Government agencies:

  • are not required to seek quotations for goods and services costing under $1000 providing the rates are reasonable and conistant with normal market rates and requirements are not split into components or a succession of orders
  • are required to obtain at least one written quotation for not-in-contract goods and services between $1000 and $20,000. Agencies can act independently of the State Contracts Control Board providing the rates are reasonable and conistant with normal market rates and requirements are not split into components or a succession of orders
  • are required to obtain at least three quotations in writing for services $20,000 to $100,000 in value. Agencies can act independently of the State Contracts Control Board where the goods are not available under contract
  • are required to submit full details and specifications to NSW Supply for the invitation of tenders if goods or services are over $100,000.

For more information regarding requirements for goods and services contact the Office of Public Works and Services.

It is very important to write a project brief for tenderers or those submitting quotations. This will also allow you to define exactly what you expect the project to involve, and give the tenderer the information required to develop costs.

It should set out the:

  • type, quantity and location of records involved
  • the tasks you would like the consultant to perform
  • your organisation's role and contributions to the project, and
  • responsibilities.

Once you have received your quotations or tenders you need to evaluate them and screen out those that do not meet your requirements. You should assess their managerial, technical and financial capability to complete the contract on time and on budget. The consultant should have had experience in the area you have hired them for (for example, have they implemented records management software packages before?). It can be very useful to interview them to be satisfied that they understand your requirements and their obligations.

One of the most important things to check is that they have a good track record. Each consultant should be able to provide you with samples of the work they have done (if, for example, they have compiled a thesaurus or written policies and procedures) and supply you with lists of clients. You should contact their previous clients to ensure they have found the consultant to be satisfactory.

Points to remember when hiring consultants

You need to be careful in preparing a contract for the consultant. If you do not specify exactly what you expect them to do, they will not be under an obligation to do it. You should build into the contract information like the number and categories of records, the reports required, including progress reports, testing mechanisms and changes or additions required by your public office. The contract should include a confidentiality agreement.

Remember that when you decide to use consultants for your records management projects that your public office is still responsible for the protection, security and appropriate management of the records. Your public office will also be responsible for the quality of the project and be accountable for its cost.

You should not expect, when hiring consultants, that they can do all the work by themselves without consultation or supervision. Remember, that no-one knows the public office like its employees, and a consultant who has had no previous association with the organisation will require assistance (and possibly training) to ensure its unique needs are met. You are also obligated to ensure that the consultant is not misusing the records, and that they are meeting the requirements of their contract and performing at an acceptable level.

Therefore your public office should appoint a liaison officer to supervise the project, brief consultants, give information and advice on public office operations and practices and manage and maintain quality control. In cases where there must be user input into projects, the liaison officer must ensure that the consultant seeks and incorporates appropriate input.

If the project is to be managed and reviewed on an ongoing basis, you should consider the need for the consultant to train public office staff to meet these requirements.

When the project is completed, you need to review and evaluate the consultant's performance and ensure they have met the criteria in your project brief and produced a quality product.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
This work may be freely reproduced and distributed for most purposes, however some restrictions apply.

ISSN 1440-3978