Managing Records in the Manitoba Government

Overview

Our records management program in its present form was established in 1981 with the creation of a Government Records unit and staff positions within the Archives. The first priority was to systematically identify records across government, and bring them under control through a comprehensive new program of records scheduling. Decades of neglect had resulted in large accumulations of records in attic and basement storage areas, and a massive salvage effort was accomplished under the direction of Government Records staff. The first Records Centre began operation in 1981, providing off-site storage services to government offices and enabling secure, centralized disposal of records scheduled for destruction. Scheduling efforts intensified in the mid-1980s in anticipation of the first Freedom of Information Act (proclaimed 1988) and publication of a guide to government records which was required under FOI.

The increasing use of electronic systems beginning in the 1990s introduced profound changes in the way records are kept, and sparked a universal re-examination of recordkeeping principles and practices. Developing effective strategies to ensure that electronic records will have the same authenticity and reliability as paper records, is a focus of our program, as it is in other jurisdictions world-wide. The Archives and Recordkeeping Act provides a framework for governance by affirming the importance of recordkeeping and the shared responsibility of the Archives and government bodies that create and keep records.

Our program is based on the principle that good recordkeeping and preservation of our archival heritage go hand in hand. We refer to it as an integrated records management and archival program. When records are well-managed from the outset, two important goals are achieved: government's recordkeeping needs are met, and we have a sound basis for identifying records of archival value and planning for their long-term preservation. In practical terms, archival records are identified through records scheduling, which provides for retention and disposition of all records held by government.

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Retention and disposal of records

Records schedules

Records schedules are a standard method for managing records of organizations from the time of the records' creation until they are ready for final disposition. In the Manitoba government, schedules are a basic recordkeeping tool for departments and agencies, and the foundation of the government's archival records program. The Archives and Recordkeeping Act requires government bodies to prepare records schedules for records within their custody and control, including electronic records, and to comply with the provisions of approved schedules.

Program areas must determine what records should be created as part of their business processes; how the records will be organized and protected to provide reliable evidence and ensure they are accessible as long as needed; and how long they must be retained. These fundamental recordkeeping requirements, embodied in schedules, are preconditions for successful use of technology to manage electronic information. Also embodied in the schedule is The Archivist of Manitoba’s decision on which records have archival value and which can be destroyed following authorized retention periods.

Schedules provide pre-determined retention and disposal rules for continuing series of records. Instead of ad hoc, one-time approval to destroy specific records, the schedule provisions are determined in advance and applied consistently and routinely over time. Schedules remain in effect until they are replaced by a new (revised) schedule or terminated when the records series has ended.

The records scheduling process is a collaborative one, with department and agency staff working in consultation with the Government Records Office to develop appropriate authorities for their records. For more information on the preparation and approval of schedules, see Procedure GRO 1:Preparing Records Schedules (PDF).

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Transferring records

Once approved by the Archivist of Manitoba, records schedules provide departments and agencies with timetables for the regular transfer of records to the Government Records Centre for semi-active storage and disposal. Detailed instructions for preparing records for transfer are available in Procedure GRO 2: Transferring Government Records (PDF).

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Retrieval and use

Records stored in the Government Records Centre during their scheduled retention period ('semi-active records') can be retrieved for use by the creating/transferring office. The records are delivered directly to the requesting office by Records Centre staff, then picked up and returned to their GRC storage location when no longer required. For information on how to retrieve records from the Records Centre, see Procedure GRO 3: Records Retrieval (PDF).

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Destruction

For government records scheduled to be destroyed at the end of the retention period, the Government Records Centre provides a controlled, cost-effective paper shredding service. Records are shredded in secure conditions through an industrial shredding facility operated under contract to government. The shredded paper is recycled.

Use of alternative facilities for destruction of government records is permitted in some circumstances. See Procedure GRO 2 Transferring Government Records (PDF) and Government Records Policy: Office Paper Shredders (PDF).

For electronic records, controlled deletion or removal of the record following the scheduled retention period is the equivalent of destruction.

Note: Under The Archives and Recordkeeping Act, government records must not be destroyed except as authorized by an approved records schedule.

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Archival records

A small percentage of records created by government are deemed to have enduring value to government and society. This is determined by Archives staff, and recommendations are made to the Archivist of Manitoba, when the records are scheduled. For archival records, the schedule provides for a disposition of 'Transfer to Archives', instead of destruction, following the expiry of the retention period.

Once the retention period has ended, archival records are normally transferred to the environmentally-controlled vaults of the Archives of Manitoba for preservation. The Archives provides a secure and protective environment, and also facilitates the long-term use of the records by government and other users. Access to archival records, as with all other government records, is subject to legislation and policy governing access to information and protection of privacy.

Government records transferred to the Archives are not normally returned to the original department or agency for reference use. However, they may be consulted at the Archives of Manitoba or copies obtained if required. For information on government access to archival records, see Government and Private Sector Archives.

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