About Records

Good recordkeeping by government supports accountability to the public and enables the preservation by the Archives of Manitoba of government records of lasting significance.

The Archives and Recordkeeping Act

Every day the government of Manitoba produces and receives large numbers of documents as it carries out its work. These record planning, communications, decisions and countless transactions involving and affecting citizens, other governments and private organizations.

Reliable records are needed by government to function effectively. They also provide important evidence of actions taken and decisions made by public officials, and allow government to account for its actions.

Ultimately, those records deemed to have continuing value will form part of Manitoba's archival heritage, as unique and irreplaceable records of government and society.

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What are government records?

Government records are defined as recorded information in any form, created or received in the conduct of government business and kept as evidence of activities and transactions.

This definition emphasizes the purpose, rather than the physical form or medium of records. The definition includes traditional paper records and records in all other forms, including electronic.

Records are made up of information, but they are something more than information alone. Records are the product of activities - they are created or received in the normal course of business and deliberately captured and 'fixed'. They are defined in terms of their essential purpose and value - which is to provide needed evidence of actions and events.

Government records are primary sources. They include unpublished documentation in any format, typically maintained in organized filing or other recordkeeping systems in government offices. Published books, library materials and artifacts are not government records.

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Why keep records?

Records contain information that is needed for the day to day work of government. Their purpose is to provide reliable evidence of, and information about, 'who, what, when, and why' something happened.

In some cases, the requirement to keep certain records is clearly defined by law, regulation or professional practice. More often, recordkeeping is a matter of policy and good business practice, developed over time and "built into" work processes, to ensure that the organisation can:

  • refer to records of past transactions in order to perform subsequent actions;
  • produce evidence of financial or contractual obligations, to avoid dispute or protect against legal liability;
  • draw on evidence of past events to make informed decisions for the present and future; and
  • account for its actions and decisions when required to do so.

The records of government also help to protect individual rights and entitlements, safeguard the public interest, and contribute to the historical record of Manitobans' personal and collective experience.

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What is “recordkeeping”?

Recordkeeping refers to the entire range of functions involved in creating and managing records throughout their life cycle. It includes:

  • creating / capturing adequate records
  • maintaining them in trustworthy recordkeeping systems for defined retention periods
  • enabling retrieval for use
  • controlling access according to defined rules
  • disposing of records that are no longer needed, according to formal retention and disposition rules
  • maintaining and providing information about records holdings
  • documenting recordkeeping practices and actions.

Records management has traditionally referred to an organisation's policies and procedures for managing file systems and disposing of records once they are no longer needed. In recent years, attention has shifted to the need to create reliable records in electronic form, and 'records management' is understood more broadly to mean the overall management of records from their initial creation to final disposition. The term is now often used interchangeably with recordkeeping.

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Why manage records?

The sheer volume and complexity of modern records will be apparent to anyone who uses them. Government employees at all levels have first-hand experience of the importance of good records management, whether they create or handle records in their work, depend on finding the records they need quickly, wonder how long their records should be kept, or are required to make decisions that affect the way business-critical records will be created and maintained.

Records management has to do with making sure records are organised, protected and controlled so that they can be effectively used over time. Its purpose is to ensure that:

  • the integrity of the records is maintained as long as they are required
  • related records are meaningfully linked
  • records can be easily located and retrieved
  • access to records is controlled and authorised
  • the most appropriate methods of capturing and maintaining records are used
  • records are systematically retained for pre-defined periods of time and disposed of according to approved records schedules
  • information about the records kept by the organization is maintained for internal and public uses
  • records management actions - including retention and disposal of records -- are documented for audit and accountability purposes
  • records of continuing value to the organization and society can be systematically identified at the earliest stage, and their preservation planned and provided for.

Good records management is also essential if government is to meet the requirements of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

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Who is responsible?

Good recordkeeping is everyone's responsibility.

All government employees have a duty to create full and accurate records of their actions, and file or capture them in a formal recordkeeping system. Employees at all levels must not destroy government records except as provided by an approved records schedule, and in accordance with established procedures for records destruction.

Program managers are responsible for ensuring that the specific records requirements of their program are defined and understood, that responsibility for creating and managing records is assigned and that the necessary systems are in place to support recordkeeping. Managers should ensure that all records in their custody and control are covered by current records schedules, and that schedules are regularly implemented.

Employees with responsibility for records management functions, such as managing file systems or carrying out the provisions of records schedules, should follow established practices and procedures, and ensure that records management actions are documented. Records Officers are responsible for communicating Government Records Office procedures within their department or agency and for coordinating the transfer of records to the Records Centre for storage and disposition. (See Records Officer Role and Responsibilities (PDF).)

The Government Records Office is responsible under The Archives and Recordkeeping Act for establishing policies, standards, and guidelines for recordkeeping, including the creation, identification, maintenance, retention, disposition, custody, and protection of records. It identifies records of archival value through the records scheduling process, and is involved in planning for the long-term protection and use of these records. The Government Records Office also provides records storage services to government through the Government Records Centre.

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