Preservation of Recorded Information in Public and Private Sector Organizations

Preservation of Recorded Information in Public and Private Sector Organizations

Nathan Mwakoshi Mnjama (University of Botswana, Botswana)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1965-2.ch009
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Abstract

The long-term preservation and accessibility of business records is often not accorded the attention that it deserves. Yet, records are a major organizational resource needed to support the current business of the organization as well as retaining the verifiable evidence of an organization's past programmes and activities. Records also serve as tools of accountability, transparency and good governance and provide reliable evidence in organizations' transactions and activities. The long-term preservation of records ensures that the organization is protected against costly litigation and that its interests and those of its employees are protected. This chapter lays emphasis on the need to preserve organizational records, the challenges facing preservation activities in the public and private sector organizations, the challenges of managing and preserving electronic records and proposes strategies for addressing these challenges.
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Introduction

Ricks, Swafford and Gow (1992, p.3) defined organizational records as “All books, papers, photographs, maps or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics made or received for legal and operational purposes in connection with the transaction of business”. As can be seen from this definition, organizational records may be in any form or medium and are the evidence of the transactions taking place in the course of organizations activities. Records are a by-product of organizational activities and that document the activities taking place in the organization. For this reason, these records need to be managed if at all they are to remain available and verifiable evidence of these transactions. The profession that is responsible for the management of organizational records is records management. ISO 15489(2001) defined records management as “The field of management responsible for the maintenance, efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about the business activities and the transactions in the form of records”. As stated by ISO 15489 (2016, p.1), managing records includes “taking appropriate action to protect their authenticity, reliability, integrity and usability as their business context and requirements for their management change over time.”

However, the effective management and utilization of recorded information whether held in public or private sector organizations is predicated upon its proper management and protection against the ravages of nature, environmental considerations as well as careful storage and handling. More often than not, staff time is wasted in searching and collecting information which ought to be readily available in the organization. Frequent loss of valuable data and recorded information, unauthorised access to information, total destruction of valuable records and data is often unreported with dire consequences to the organization. Lack of organizational policies and procedures, inadequate storage facilities and lack of qualified and competent staff are often factors that prevent the proper care and preservation of recorded information in business organizations. Everyday care as well as long term preservation of the organizations’ corporate memory is often left to junior officers with limited knowledge and resources. Perhaps the only times when issues of how the organization manages its records are considered, is when the required information cannot be located or when the organization is faced with a court case or a disaster such as fire or flooding. This chapter commences with a discussion on preservation and then proceeds to discuss the reasons for preserving business records, the challenges of managing business records both paper and electronic and possible strategies for ensuring that business records are managed and preserved so as to remain authentic and reliable evidence of the past.

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