Changes to the machinery of government are constant. Functions move between organisations and organisations are created, abolished, merged and de-merged.
Whatever the nature of the change, the records will move around too. A change of government can generate organisational change and the points below provide a quick refresher on responsibilities under the Public Records Act 2005 (PRA) when functions move.
Section 23 requires that an organisation taking over responsibility for records from another organisation must notify the Chief Archivist. There is formal documentation that must be completed and submitted within three months after the transfer has taken place. This reporting obligation does not apply to local authorities, but they can still contact us for advice. For more detail refer to our guide on Managing information and records during administrative change (17/G14). If your organisation is going through change contact Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you work through the steps and documentation required.
Both the organisation transferring the records and the organisation receiving them will need to check that their disposal authorities reflect the movement of functions. Contact us to discuss whether you need to make additions or amendments, or develop a new disposal authority. Archives will advise if changes are required. It may be prudent to continue to use existing disposal authorities and the general disposal authorities for common corporate records up to the point of transfer. Using disposal authorities to remove unnecessary records before transfer will help to minimise the cost and complexity of the process.
Archives is often asked whether the transfer of records means that the receiving organisation now “owns” them. The PRA does not use the term ownership. Instead, it refers to control and responsibility. Archives recommends that organisations use the term “control” in their transfer documentation.
Shared services arrangements have become more common within government and may be part of the design of changes to machinery of government. Under such arrangements, the transferring organisation may continue providing the receiving organisation with information and records management services.
This can create uncertainty for the organisations involved, because on the surface there may be little change to day-to-day operations. When organisations enter shared services arrangements, they must still complete the section 23 transfer process because the official control and responsibility for records has changed.
Organisations sometimes ask what system configurations are permissible in a shared services arrangement. There is no requirement in the PRA or the standard set under it for organisations to work in standalone business systems. There are many different ways to implement transfer of control, from running separate instances of a business system to using permissions and security within a single instance.
That said, when organisations opt to continue working in the same business system after a de-merger it can be challenging to manage appropriate access, privacy and security. In this scenario it is vital to document all decisions about responsibilities, clearly communicate expectations to users, and continually monitor risks.
Changes to the machinery of government may require changes to Executive Sponsor representation. The Information and records management standard (16/S1) requires all public sector organisations to nominate an Executive Sponsor. The person nominated for this role must have strategic and managerial responsibility for overseeing information and records management, report directly to their Chief Executive and have organisation-wide influence. When a new organisation is established, Archives writes to the Chief Executive seeking a nominee. For more information refer to our factsheet on the Role and responsibilities of an Executive Sponsor (16/F11).