Access to information by stakeholders, even if legally provided for (see also 2.9 – Access to Information Laws) is often greatly limited because of poor organization and management of records. A well-organized record keeping system can facilitate easy access to information by the public. It is also useful in order to publish lists of the records’ series that agencies or public offices hold. Moreover, record management systems can also ensure that individual civil servants can be held accountable for their actions. Documents of general interest should be prepared in a form understandable to the general public and, where possible, be placed on the Internet for the benefit of those with access.
A nation-wide government records management policy is often essential, and can easily be adapted at the local authority level. Where no national legislation exists, local authorities may formulate related policies if there is legal space to do so.
The purpose of a proper records management system backed by a national or local policy is to:
Enhance public accessibility to government information.
Improve accountability, responsiveness and professionalism of the local management system.
Linkage to Transparency
The ability of citizens to engage effectively with the local government, and their trust in public agencies, is often contingent upon availability of information. Relevant information, complete and concise, put together in an easily understandable format, and made available to the public either proactively or upon request, can go a long way in enhancing transparency and improving citizen participation in local governance.
How it Works – The Key Elements
A public records management system should include proper procedures and policies for documenting key government policies and activities. The framework for keeping records and the guidelines allowing accessibility by the public must be simple and clear.
An important element of any record management system is computerisation. Computerisation of records has the advantage of easy recording, updating, processing and transfer of information.
Indicators of an effective public records management policy include:
Is there an official body with a legal duty for records maintenance (records tracking)?
Are there clear administrative instructions on the maintenance of public records? If so, are these generally observed?
Do citizens have a right of access to their personal files (other than those concerned with law enforcement) and the right to insist on corrections where these contain errors?
Do public officials or others seeking information experience difficulties in obtaining it? If they do, what are the problems?
What policies exist concerning the provision of information to the public (e.g., to service a complaint)?
Can officials provide credible and timely audited accounts, and information about personnel numbers, etc?
Does legislation cover the records of regions and districts (or their equivalents)?
Increased Transparency through local computerisation in Bellandur, India
Computerising the Law of Papua New Guinea
Further information and contacts
Pope, Jeremy (2000). Transparency International Sourcebook.
(Chapter 24: The Right to Information--Information, Public Awareness and Public Records).
Transparency International (TI), Otto-Suhr-Allee 97-99, 10585 Berlin, Germany
Tel.: +49-30-343-8200; Fax: +49-30-34703912
"India's e-village tackles corruption".
Posted at the BBC
Papua New Guinea
Haynes, C.E.P. Val (1999).
Computerising the Law of Papua New Guinea.
Paper presented at AustLII's “Law Via The Internet '99” conference.
Website: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/ CompLRes/1999/21/index.html