PRONI and records management
Due to the demands of recent legislation, in particular the Data Protection Act 1998, 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.
This document gives practical advice on all manner 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 etc)
A second piece of guidance was drawn up that further developed the theories first described in the 2002 NIRMS document.
This document, ‘Guidelines on Information Audits and Disposal Schedules for Northern Ireland Public Authorities’ is currently under review. Please contact PRONI regarding the new disposal schedule process.
The guidelines were originally created after the publication of the Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on the Management of Records under Section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act. The Code’s emphasis on the implementation of sound record keeping practices meant that further, more detailed, guidance would be needed by public authorities.
Topics covered include what a suitable records management structure should look like, who should (and how to) carry out an information audit, the compilation of disposal schedules and finally, PRONI’s relationship with public authorities during the disposal process.
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 documentation has been introduced by PRONI in order to comply with 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.
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 the completion of PR 14 Historical forms)
For the transfer of records to PRONI, that are less than 20 years old. (Guidance for reviewers on the completion of 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 subject to 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 of the conclusion of the investigation. 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 ensure 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 revised will incorporate the above recommendation.