Guidelines for use (GA40)
Purpose of the Authority
The purpose of this general retention and disposal authority is to identify those records created and maintained by NSW public offices which are required as State archives and to provide approval for the destruction of certain other records created and maintained by NSW public offices, after minimum retention periods have been met.
The approval for disposal given by this authority is given under the provisions of the State Records Act 1998 only and does not override any other obligations of an organisation to retain records.
The retention and disposal of State records
The records retention and disposal practices outlined in this authority are approved under section 21(2)(c) of the State Records Act 1998 (NSW). Part 3 (Protection of State Records) of the Act provides that records are not to be disposed of without the consent of State Records with certain defined exceptions. These exceptions include an action of disposal which is positively required by law, or which takes place in accordance with a normal administrative practice (NAP) of which State Records does not disapprove. Advice on the State Records Act can be obtained from State Records.
The authority sets out how long the different classes of records generated by an organisation must be kept to meet its legal, operational and other requirements, and whether the records are to be kept as State archives. The State Records Authority ('State Records') reviews and approves organisations' retention and disposal authorities under the State Records Act.
This authority is the product of an appraisal process conducted in accordance with State Records’ Standard on the appraisal and disposal of State records.
State Records’ decisions take into account both the administrative requirements of public offices in discharging their functional responsibilities and the potential research use of the records by the NSW Government and the public. One of State Records’ functions is to identify and preserve records as State archives. These are records which document the authority and functions of Government, its decision-making processes and the implementation and outcomes of those decisions, including the nature of their influence and effect on communities and individual lives. Criteria for the identification of State archives are listed in Building the Archives: Policy on records appraisal and the identification of State archives. The Policy also explains the roles and responsibilities of State Records and of public offices in undertaking appraisal processes and disposal activities.
This general retention and disposal authority covers records controlled by the public office and applies only to the records or classes of records described in the authority. The authority should be implemented as part of the records management program of the organisation. Two primary objectives of this program are to ensure that records are kept for as long as they are of value to the organisation and its stakeholders and to enable the destruction or other disposal of records once they are no longer required for business or operational purposes.
The implementation process entails use of the authority to sentence records. Sentencing is the examination of records in order to identify the disposal class in the authority to which they belong. This process enables the organisation to determine the appropriate retention period and disposal action for the records. Advice on sentencing can be obtained from State Records. See Implementing a retention and disposal authority.
Where the format of records has changed (for example, from paper-based to electronic) this does not prevent the disposal decisions in the authority from being applied to records which perform the same function. The information contained in non paper-based or technology dependant records must be accessible for the periods prescribed in the classes. Where a record is copied, either onto microform or digitally imaged, the original should not be disposed of without authorisation (see also the General retention and disposal authority: imaged records). Public offices will need to ensure that any software, hardware or documentation required to gain continuing access to technology dependent records is available for the periods prescribed.
Records required as State archives
Records which are to be retained as State archives are identified with the disposal action 'Required as State archives'. Records that are identified as being required as State archives should be stored in controlled environmental conditions and control of these records should be transferred to State Records when they are no longer in use for official purposes.
The transfer of control of records as State archives may, or may not, involve a change in custodial arrangements. Records can continue to be managed by the public office under a distributed management agreement. Public offices are encouraged to make arrangements with State Records regarding the management of State archives.
Transferring records identified as State archives and no longer in use for official purposes to State Records’ control should be a routine and systematic part of a public office's records management program. If the records are more than 25 years old and are still in use for official purposes, then a 'still in use determination' should be made.
Records approved for destruction
Records that have been identified as being approved for destruction may only be destroyed once the minimum retention periods have been met and a public office has ensured that all other requirements for retaining the records are met. Retention periods set down in this authority are minimum periods only and a public office should keep records for a longer period if necessary. Reasons for longer retention can include legal requirements, administrative need, and government directives. A public office must not dispose of any records where the public office is aware of possible legal action (including legal discovery, court cases, formal applications for access) where the records may be required as evidence.
Once all requirements for retention have been met, destruction of records should be carried out in a secure and environmentally sound way. Relevant details of the destruction should be recorded. See Destruction of records: a practical guide.
Regardless of whether a record has been approved for destruction or is required as a State archive, a public office or an officer of a public office must not permanently transfer possession or ownership of a State record to any person or organisation without the explicit approval of State Records.
This general retention and disposal authority has been designed to link records to the functions they document rather than to organisational structure. This provides for a stable retention and disposal authority that is less affected by administrative change. However, when functions move from one public office to another the public office that inherits the new function should contact State Records to discuss use of any existing retention and disposal authority approved for use by a predecessor organisation.
To suggest amendments or alterations to this authority please contact us:
PO Box 516 Kingswood NSW 2747
Telephone: (02) 8247 8627
Facsimile: (02) 8247 8626