PRONI and records management
Due to the demands of recent legislation, in particular the Data Protection Act 2018, the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) 2000, and long standing legislation such as the Public Records Act (NI) 1923, the records management function in public authorities needs a large investment in time, energy and resources.
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) continues to be at the forefront of developments in the field of records and information management.
Members of PRONI's records management staff provide advice and guidance to those public servants and professionals who deal with the records management function in their respective organisations.
Northern Ireland Records Management Standard
Seeing the need to raise the importance of records management, in consultation with staff from the Northern Ireland government departments, PRONI drew up the Northern Ireland Record Management Standard (NIRMS) in 2002 and updated in 2007.
This document gives practical advice on all types of records management issues pertinent to public record-keeping in Northern Ireland.
Issues covered include:
- filing systems
- filing practices
- disposal scheduling
- reviewing of records
- special category records (security classified records, stature-barred records and so on)
Guidance on retention and disposal schedules has been updated and details the current position for public authorities. This document replaces the earlier guidelines.
The guidance must be read with the Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on the Management of Records under Section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act. The Code highlights sound record keeping practices that must be followed by public authorities.
Transfer of records
Guidance has been produced is to assist public bodies in Northern Ireland to manage the transfer of official paper records to the custody of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Since the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, new documents have been introduced by PRONI in order to meet the s46 code of the FOI Act. The PR 14 forms and respective guidance was issued after consultation with the Northern Ireland Departmental Information Managers and Departmental Records Officers. These forms and guidance have recently been updated on account of the implementation of the 20 year rule.
PR 14 historical
For the transfer of historical records to PRONI, that is those that are more than 20 years old as defined by the FOI Act. (Guidance for reviewers on filling in the PR 14 historical forms).
For the transfer of records to PRONI, that are less than 20 years old. (Guidance for reviewers on filling in the PR 14 forms).
Financial records – new guidance
In light of recent record keeping recommendations issued by the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the Northern Ireland Public Accounts Committee, PRONI advises that publicly funded bodies which have been under an investigation that resulted in significant criticism or public prosecution should retain the relevant financial records for a period of 10 years from the date that the investigation ended. In a case, where the public body ceases to exist, the funding department is to take the necessary steps to secure all relevant documents and make sure they are preserved.
As a result of the above recommendation, public bodies that have a disposal schedule signed off by PRONI will be required to set aside the current agreed disposal action for any records that fall into the above category and hold such records for the extended period. Disposal schedules being reviewed or changed will incorporate the above recommendation.
Guidance for Public Inquiries
Public inquiries are conducted on behalf of NI Departments or the NI Executive, which means that records created or sent to the Inquiry are ‘public records’ as defined by the Public Records Act (NI) 1923. PRONI has published guidance for the management of information and records created during the course of public inquiries held in Northern Ireland.