Government Records FAQs

Records Management

Records Retention

Records Schedules

Transfer and Retrieval of Records

Records Disposal


Records Management

Isn't the Archives' purpose to keep historical records? What does that have to do with records management?

Yes, the Archives of Manitoba is the government's Archives, responsible for identifying, preserving and making available records of enduring (archival) value to government and society.

But the Archives has another, related responsibility under legislation: "to promote and facilitate good recordkeeping respecting government records in order to support accountability and effective government administration."

There's good reason for this dual role. Any organization needs established policies and standards for records management, and government is no exception. At the same time, a comprehensive records management program enables the government to identify records of archival value in a systematic way, and to plan for their long-term preservation and use. The Archives takes a lead role in both areas through its integrated records management and archival program.

What does FIPPA have to do with records management?

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) provides a legal right of access to information held by public bodies (government), subject to certain specified exceptions, and protection of personal information that government may collect, use and disclose. FIPPA requires public bodies to respond to requests for access to information according to the provisions of the Act, and it requires that government produce a Directory to assist the public in identifying and locating records. For more information see the FIPPA website.

FIPPA does not provide for the creation, retention and disposition of government records. These records management requirements are governed by The Archives and Recordkeeping Act (ARA).

The two Acts address different aspects of government recordkeeping, but are related for practical reasons. Good recordkeeping enables government to locate information and respond to access requests under FIPPA. Also, information about records, which is collected and documented to meet the records management requirements of The Archives and Recordkeeping Act, is used by government to help locate information requested under FIPPA.

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Records Retention

How long do records have to be kept?

There is no simple answer, because the length of time a record must be kept depends on the nature of the record and the circumstances of its creation and use. While some records have specific retention periods set by legislation, regulation or professional standards, most do not.

How long a record must be kept has a lot to do with why the record is needed in the first place. A record provides evidence of 'who, what, when and why' something happened. To determine how long this evidence may be needed, managers responsible for records should be aware of any formal rules or policies specifying retention periods, and should also consider:

  • the need to account for actions and decisions;
  • the need for evidence of financial or contractual obligations in order to avoid dispute or protect against liability;
  • the need to refer to records of past actions in order to perform subsequent actions; and
  • the longer-term need for information that supports program planning and evaluation.

Retention periods are usually applied to groups (series) of related records, since records are often interdependent. The records scheduling process assists managers in identifying records series and determining appropriate retention periods. The retention periods are documented in records schedules, which serve as ongoing authorities for retention and disposition of all records, including electronic records. For more information see Procedure GRO 1: Preparing Records Schedules (PDF).

Do you have guidelines for retention?

When records schedules are being prepared by departments, Records Advisory staff (GRO) can provide guidance on typical retention periods for records commonly held by government offices.
Manitoba Finance has issued retention guidelines for financial records which are governed by the Financial Administration Act. Records schedules covering these records should comply with these retention guidelines. The guidelines are available from Manitoba Finance, Comptroller's Division.

Otherwise, retention periods should be based on specific needs and requirements of the program responsible for the records. See the above FAQ, "How long do records have to be kept?".

Is e-mail considered a government record and what do I do with it?

Yes, e-mail messages sent or received by government employees, which relate to government business, are considered government records and must be managed accordingly. Like other records, they must be captured in an organized recordkeeping system so that they are linked to related records, available to the program area as long as needed, and retained and disposed of according to the provisions of a records schedule. Because our desktop computer applications, including MS Outlook, do not currently provide these recordkeeping functions, employees must print and file e-mail messages to a formal file system before deleting the electronic message. Please contact us for more information.

How long should e-mail be kept? Is there a retention policy for e-mail?

Retention rules are not applied to records based on their format (e-mail, electronic files, paper, video, photographs). Instead, they are applied to groups (series) of records supporting particular functions or activities. The records schedules developed for each business area reflect functional series of records and the retention periods that are needed to meet operational, legal and fiscal requirements. Records series often contain a mix of document formats. In other words, it is not appropriate to define a records retention policy for e-mail generally.

For more information on retention periods, see other Records Retention FAQs.

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Records Schedules

How do I know what records schedules exist for our records?

Each government office should have copies of approved records schedules. A complete set of schedules is also maintained by the Records Officer for each department or agency. If your office is missing copies of its records schedules, contact your Records Officer.

Our office has records that are not scheduled. What should we do?

Instructions on how to schedule records are provided in Procedure GRO 1: Preparing Records Schedules (PDF)

We still need our records – why do we have to schedule them?

Records schedules identify records held by government, and provide an important inventory needed for planning, protecting and providing access to records. Retention and disposition should be identified in advance for all active (current) records. Once this has been done, the approved schedules provide a plan for recordkeeping.

Retention requirements may affect how records are kept (ie., their arrangement or format), so these requirements should be known from the time the records are created. They should also be understood and taken into account when considering converting records to microfilm or digital images for current business purposes. The retention requirements set out in records schedules are business requirements that should be included in the planning of electronic systems.

Records schedules identify records of archival value, and this allows government to plan for their permanent preservation.

Finally, the Archives and Recordkeeping Act requires government bodies to prepare records schedules for all records in their custody or control.

Our office has records that don't need to be kept very long. Do we have to schedule them?

Yes, all government records must be scheduled, regardless of how long they need to be kept or what format they are in (e.g. paper, electronic). Scheduled retention periods are meant to enable regular disposal of records as soon as all requirements to retain them have ended. Many routine administrative records are retained for short periods of time, and some records are scheduled for immediate disposition.

It is best to schedule all the records of an office at the same time. This allows managers and Archives to see the whole picture, and makes it easier to determine appropriate retention periods for each series or group of records.

Who is responsible for scheduling records?

Under the Archives and Recordkeeping Act, government bodies are responsible for preparing records schedules for records in their custody or under their control. Schedules are prepared in consultation with the Archives (Government Records Office), according to guidelines established by the Archives. Schedules are approved by the Archivist. For more information on records scheduling, see Procedure GRO 1: Preparing Records Schedules (PDF).

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Transfer and Retrieval of Records

I need to transfer records. What do I do?

The first step is to download Procedure GRO 2: Transferring Government Records (PDF) and the current Records Transfer List forms. You should also have a complete set of approved records schedules for your office since you will need to refer to them when transferring records. If you don't, contact your department/agency Records Officer. The Records Officer will also be able to assist you with any questions about transferring records.

It is important to follow Procedure GRO 2 and refer to the schedules. Lists that are incorrectly completed will be returned to your office causing a delay in the transfer of records.

Can I send completed Government Records forms electronically?

The forms are available in Word format so that information can be entered electronically. However, all forms must be signed before being submitted, so they must be printed, signed and sent in paper form.

In future, we hope to develop an electronic system that will enable on-line submission of Records Transfer Lists and records schedules.

I need to retrieve records. How do I know if they are in the Records Centre or the Archives?

Refer to your copy of the original Records Transfer List. If your office does not have a copy of the list, contact your Records Officer.

If the disposal date shown on the list is a future date, the records are in semi-active storage at the Records Centre, and may be retrieved for use in the department. See Procedure GRO 3: Retrieving Records (PDF) for instructions on how to retrieve records.

If the disposal action is Transfer to Archives and the disposal date has passed, contact Government and Private Sector Archives to request access to the records.

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Records Disposal

Can I destroy records?

Only in accordance with approved records schedules. For instructions on how to arrange for scheduled destruction of records, consult your department or agency Records Officer or see Procedure GRO 2: Transferring Government Records (PDF).

If we scan our records can we destroy the original paper records?

No, not without an approved records schedule that allows for their destruction. If the series is unscheduled, the imaged records and the paper records must both be scheduled to provide for their retention and disposal. If you have digitized a series of records that is already under an approved records schedule, the schedule should be revised to update the information about your recordkeeping practices and to provide for disposal of the image files. Depending on the nature of the series and the disposal action, some consideration may have to be given to determining the official recordkeeping copy.

What should I do with extra copies that don't need to be kept?

Please see our Transitory Records (PDF) fact sheet.

What about "Blue Bin" recycling?

Paper collected in blue bins is not shredded before recycling, so confidential information is not protected. Therefore, blue bins should be used only for non-confidential office paper materials such as published government and non-government material (internet articles, press releases, research documents, manuals), envelopes, printed material (magazines, newspapers, flyers, calendars), printer paper wrapping, etc.

Can we shred our own records?

No. Only in exceptional circumstances are office paper shredders approved for use. Please see the Government Records Policy on Office Paper Shredders (PDF) for more information.

Offices located outside Winnipeg may use local shredding services for destruction of records under approved records schedules. As explained in Procedure GRO 2: Transferring Government Records (PDF), local destruction must be witnessed and officially documented.

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