Purpose of the authority
The purpose of the General retention and disposal authority: administrative records is to identify those administrative and personnel records created and maintained by NSW public offices which are required as State archives and to provide approval for the destruction of certain other common administrative 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 only and does not override any other obligations of an organisation to retain records.
See 2.3 Guidelines for implementation: Destroying records for more information.
Public offices authorised to use this authority
The General retention and disposal authority: administrative records applies to all public offices under the State Records Act 1998.
What records does the authority cover?
This authority authorises the disposal of most general and certain other common administrative and personnel records, created and maintained in any format, by NSW public offices, with exclusions as listed below.
Date range of records covered
This authority applies to records wholly created after 1940 except where records are required as State archives, where it applies to records of any age. The disposal of records created before 1940 which are not required as State archives in this authority should be referred to State Archives and Records NSW.
What records are not covered?
Records relating to core or unique business functions
Public offices should prepare a separate functional retention and disposal authority to cover records relating to the organisation's core or unique business functions not covered by this authority.
Records covered by normal administrative practice (NAP)
Certain records of a facilitative, ephemeral or duplicate nature can, in prescribed circumstances, be disposed of in accordance with the normal administrative practice (NAP) provisions of the State Records Act without the need of formal approval from State Archives and Records NSW.
Public offices should develop internal policies and procedures, based on Schedule 2 of the State Records Regulation 2015, to define and authorise what is meant by normal administrative practice for their organisation and to identify and document the types of records that are disposed of under this provision of the Act as part of the routinely implemented practices of the organisation.
Previous disposal authorities superseded
This authority supersedes previous disposal authorisation in the following authorities:
|General retention and disposal authority||Parts superseded|
|Administrative records (GDA2) revised edition 1996||Whole|
|Year 2000 project records (GDA6) 1999||Whole|
|Financial and accounting records (GDA7) revised edition 1999||Whole|
|Personnel records (GDA12) revised edition 2002||Whole|
|General retention and disposal authority: video/visual surveillance records (GDA8) 2010||Whole|
|General retention and disposal authority: audio visual programs and recordings (GAD11) 2002||Whole|
How long is the authority in force?
This authority will remain in force until it is superseded by a new authority or it is withdrawn from use by State Archives and Records NSW.
Use of this authority in conjunction with other retention and disposal authorities
This authority permits the disposal of most general and certain other common administrative records and personnel records, created and maintained in any format, by NSW public offices.
Organisations with functional authorities
Organisations with functional retention and disposal authorities should use the new authority in conjunction with their functional authorities and other approved general authorities. This authority does not override any approved minimum retention periods or disposal actions in functional authorities issued prior or subsequent to the approval of this authority, except where specified below.
Where this authority identifies a longer retention period to that identified in a previously issued functional authorities, organisations are advised to consider retaining records in accordance with the longer retention period identified in this authority as this is more likely to reflect current recordkeeping requirements.
Universities, local government, public health and other sectors with specific general authority coverage
Universities, local government, the public health sector and other sectors with specific general authority should use the authority in conjunction with their sector-specific authorities and other approved general authorities. For functional and sector-related administrative records, the sector-specific authority should be used in the first instance. If there is no disposal coverage for required records, and the records are covered in this authority, they may use the relevant entries in this authority to sentence these records. This authority does not override any approved minimum retention periods or disposal actions in sector-specific authorities issued prior or subsequent to the approval of this authority, except where specified below.
Where this authority identifies a longer retention period to that identified in a previously issued sector-specific authority, organisations are advised to consider retaining records in accordance with the longer retention period identified in this authority as this is more likely to reflect current recordkeeping requirements.
Managing personnel records
See Managing personnel records for assistance with implementing the Personnel function within this authority.
To suggest amendments or alterations to this authority please contact us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (02) 9673 1788.
To obtain assistance in the interpretation or implementation of this authority, or any of our general retention and disposal authorities, contact us at: email@example.com or phone (02) 9673 1788.
Arrangement of entries by function and activity
The entries for the various records covered by this authority are arranged according to the function and activity to which the records relate. Each function and activity is provided with a 'scope note' or definition in the authority.
Within many function and activity sets there are 'see' references provided, which are to guide the user to related function and activity sets and entries either within the authority or in separate general retention and disposal authorities, e.g. under OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY - REPRESENTATIVES: 'See OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY - INSPECTIONS for records relating to inspections and investigations carried out by occupational health and safety representatives.'
Within the function and activity sets are tables which identify and describe the various classes of records covered by the authority. Each table includes a number of information components:
|Reference No.||Function, activity and entry identifiers
Each function, activity and entry has a unique number used to identify it. Each number has 3 parts which reflects the hierarchical arrangement of the authority.
|Function/Activity||Function and activity name|
|Description||This is a description of the function, activity, or records covered by a particular entry (disposal class). The description of the records often includes examples or a list of the types of records that may be covered in this class. Lists and examples are not indicative of all records that may be covered by the class. This column also includes see references.|
A disposal action may either identify records required as State archives ('Required as State archives') or the minimum retention period for which records are required to be maintained by an organisation before their destruction is approved in accordance with the provisions of the State Records Act.
Disposal actions authorising destruction are made up of several parts:
Minimum retention periods
Note: Records identified as 'Required as State archives' should be transferred to the control of State Archives and Records NSW when they are no longer required by an organisation for ongoing business purposes. See 2.3 Guidelines for implementation below for more information.
Implementing retention and disposal authorities ensures that records are retained for the correct period of time and no longer (or shorter) than necessary. It also ensures that records are disposed of in a timely, routine and efficient manner. Undertaking sentencing and regular disposal of records ensures that the organisation is not exposed to unnecessary costs for retaining paper and digital records it no longer requires.
Comprehensive information about implementing disposal authorities is found in this guideline Implementing a disposal authority.
Minimum retention periods
The authority specifies minimum retention periods for all records not required as State archives. A public office must not destroy or otherwise dispose of records before the minimum retention period has expired. If a public office desires to reduce the minimum retention period it must seek specific written approval from State Archives and Records NSW. Public offices may retain records for longer periods of time, subject to organisational need, without further reference to State Archives and Records NSW.
Retention of electronic records
Electronic records must be protected and readily accessible for the specified minimum retention period.
Imaged and copied records
Many public offices routinely image records. This may be the scanning of incoming correspondence or bulk digitisation of hard copy records. Most hard copy originals are authorised for destruction after copying, provided a number of conditions are met. Public offices should check General retention and disposal authority: original or source records that have been copied for more information.
When the approved minimum retention period has been reached, appropriate arrangements for the destruction of records may be undertaken without further reference to State Archives and Records NSW, unless otherwise advised.
Persons using the authority should apply it with caution, bearing in mind that the approvals for disposal are given in terms of the State Records Act only. It is the responsibility of every public office to ensure that all legal and other requirements for retention of records have been met before disposing of any of its records. A public office must not destroy records if they are:
- subject to current or pending legal proceedings
- subject to an application for access under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2003 or the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998
- subject to a Government policy or directive not to be destroyed.
Circulating lists of records proposed to be destroyed to relevant action officers as part of routine procedures prior to any destruction being carried out may assist to ensure these issues are identified.
See Destruction of records for information on destruction methods and considerations.
Managing 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 identified in retention and disposal authorities as State archives and no longer in use for official purposes in the public office should be transferred to State Archives and Records' control. 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 Archives and Records NSW regarding the management of State archives.
Transferring records identified as State archives and no longer in use for official purposes to State Archives and 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.
To obtain assistance regarding transferring material as State archives, contact Agency Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 9673 1788. For more information concerning entering into a distributed management agreement, contact the Senior Project Officer, Distributed Management at: email@example.com or (02) 9673 1788.
Transfer of ownership must be approved
Regardless of whether a record has been approved for destruction or is required as a State archive, a public office must not transfer ownership of a State record to any person or organisation without the explicit authorisation of State Archives and Records NSW.
Interpretation of disposal triggers in this authority
It is very important that triggers are appropriately interpreted and understood by those implementing the authority. Sometimes they rely on information from elsewhere in the organisation, e.g. date of birth of an employee. Where possible, the organisation should build the recording of the dates or required information into standard records procedures so staff will know, for example, when a file should be marked as inactive or closed. Without this information being recorded, sentencing cannot take place in a streamlined or efficient manner.
After action completed:
This is the most common disposal trigger in the authority. 'Action completed' refers to the final transaction of business, i.e. the final document is attached to the file and the file is closed. An action does not include a file movement or audit (unless the organisation determines an audit is an action).
In the case of paper-based registers the date of the last entry in the register may be a suitable trigger for when action is completed (providing all actions associated with the matters recorded in the register have been completed). In the case of electronic registers, however, it may be more appropriate to apply the disposal action to individual entries in the register rather than the register as a whole (as the last action on the register as a whole may be indefinite). In this case the trigger can be calculated from the last time an individual entry in the register was updated or amended, or from when the data has become obsolete (i.e. when all the business for which the record was maintained has been completed).
Until ceases to be of administrative or reference use:
This trigger usually applies where ongoing use of the records is likely to be short term, or where ongoing reference use of the records is linked to the conduct of business processes and the determination of appropriate periods for retention relies on an organisation's assessment of its own business needs and uses. This can vary from one organisation to another depending on the nature of its business.
For the purposes of implementing the authority and facilitating the production of reports or triggers for the review of these records as part of a regular disposal program the organisation may wish to define a standard retention period for these types of records. Suitable standard retention periods can be defined through discussions with business units or action officers who use the records.
After expiry or termination:
This trigger is commonly used for contracts, agreements, licences etc. The organisation needs to determine how long this will be, based on the individual circumstances. In the case where there are set periods of operation built into contracts, agreements etc this will be straightforward to convert to an 'after action completed' trigger. However, any extension of the contract, agreement etc would require a change in the retention period.
This trigger usually relates to policies, procedures etc. The organisation needs to have a mechanism to note when policies, procedures etc are replaced so that the trigger can be applied.
Upon expiry of statutory limitation periods:
This trigger is used when the statutory limitation period for commencing a legal action or claim will vary from an adult to a child (e.g. when it is dependent on the person's age). The organisation is responsible for seeking advice regarding the expiry of the statutory limitation period before implementing the disposal action.
Managing the calculation of triggers and disposal processes
Public offices need to consider and plan how they are to manage the implementation of triggers. For some it may be possible to automate the process. For example, a date of birth may be entered into the public office's human resource management system and automatically applied as a 'after date of birth' trigger in the records management system.
If automation is not possible, the development of business rules or procedures may be required to ensure that information is communicated by the relevant business unit to the records management unit so that the trigger is applied.
When disposal dates have been reached, procedures should also be in place to ensure the circulation of lists or details of records proposed for destruction to relevant action officers for internal authorisation and approval before any disposal action takes place. These officers can identify if circumstances have changed, e.g. extensions of contracts or legal cases, which will affect the implementation of disposal decisions and may warrant the retention of records for longer periods as appropriate.
Implementing alternative disposal actions
Some disposal classes provide two or more alternative disposal decisions, depending on the nature of the records (e.g. most classes for records relating to agreements provide a minimum retention period of 12 years for specialty contracts and a minimum retention period of 7 years for standard contracts or agreements). These disposal decisions require the user to apply the correct decision.
To enable the automation of sentencing in electronic systems, all such disposal decisions are labelled with (A), (B) or (C). This letter can be added to the disposal class number in electronic systems, thereby providing a unique identifier for each disposal action.
Major/minor classes in the authority
On some occasions, classes are divided into 'major', 'significant' or 'substantive' versus 'minor' or 'routine' records or events. When these classes occur, there are usually examples provided of types of records or events that may fall into each category in order to guide organisations. For example, INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS - DISPUTES 11.4.1:
'Records relating to the management of industrial disputes of a significant nature where the organisation is a primary party to the negotiations or resolution of the dispute. Significant disputes can include those:
- resulting in a strike, ban or lock-out
- that set precedents, or
- that result in innovative or contentious changes to working conditions.'
As a guide, the types of events or matters that may be considered to fall within the category of 'significant' or 'major' include those that:
- affect the whole-of-government or portfolio function
- concern major liabilities or obligations of the organisation or the State
- relate to the development of legislation, regulations or policies
- relate to controversial matters (i.e. subject to formal or parliamentary inquiry or intense media scrutiny)
- have wide community interest
- otherwise significantly affect the organisation's functions or structure.
State Archives and Records has compiled a Glossary of Recordkeeping Terms..