Before you begin

Identify the need to develop a functional records disposal schedule

Consider the General Disposal Schedule before developing a functional disposal schedule. If a function is covered by the general disposal schedule and all legislative, regulatory and community expectations are covered, then a functional records disposal schedule is not required.

For further information regarding General Records Disposal Schedules please refer to NT Archives Service.

Tip: If the function is carried out by more than one organisation it is probably covered by a general disposal schedule.

The following questions will assist in determining the requirement to develop a functional disposal schedule.

  • Is there a close relationship between your organisation and another in respect to these functions?
  • Is the organisation dependent on another organisation to complete work for this function?
  • Is the organisation dependent on another organisation for approval to any processes for this function?
  • Does the agency consult regularly with other organisations in relation to this function?
  • Are there joint committees with other organisations in relation to this function?
  • Are staff members seconded in relation to this function (either to or from the organisation)?
  • Is there any joint funding in relation to this function with another organisation?
  • Does another organisation or outside body hold records in relation to this function?
  • Does the organisation have agreements with other organisations relating to this function?
  • Do other organisations have responsibility in relation to legislation for the organisation?
  • Does the organisation report to a governing body in relation to this function?
    Does any other organisation perform these functions?

If the answer to all these questions is ‘No’, then it can be determined that the function is unique to the organisation. A project plan outlining the process will need to be developed.

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘Yes’, then it can be assumed that another organisation either performs this function in parallel, or that another organisation may contribute to the performance of this function in some capacity. In this case, the organisation in question will need to be consulted during the development of the schedule.

Gaining senior management support

Developing a schedule is a complex and time-consuming project with potentially wide ranging implications for the organisation. The chief executive officer has a duty to ensure the organisation complies with Part 9 of the Information Act 2002 (Records and archives management), and is not in breach of s 145 of the Act relating to the disposal of records. For these reasons, it is important to ensure senior management of the organisation understand and support the project. This support will help ensure adequate resources are allocated to the project and that appropriate senior staff of the public sector organisation are available for consultation during the development of the schedule.

As well as meeting legislative requirements, the project can generate a number of benefits that senior management should be aware of.

These include:

  • increased knowledge of records created by the organisation
  • identification of areas where records are not being created
  • identification of records that can be destroyed, leading to cost and resource savings
  • identification of vital records (vital records are those without which the organisation cannot operate and are required to re-establish the organisation's critical functions in the event of a disaster)
  • identification of permanent records (permanent records have historical value and will need to be preserved and eventually transferred to the NT Archives Service).

Savings in records storage costs will only occur if resources are allocated for sentencing records with expired temporary records being destroyed.

Staffing

Developing a disposal schedule requires detailed research and analysis and therefore a substantial time commitment. It is not a 'spare time' activity for existing staff and thought must be given on how to best resource the project.
Options include:

  • moving a staff member currently within the organisation offline to work on the project and back-filling their position
  • employing temporary staff to undertake the project
  • engaging consultants.

Each approach has both benefits and costs, as outlined in the table below:

ApproachBenefitsCosts
Moving staff member offline Have existing knowledge of the public organisation, its context and records. Knowledge gained through project retained by authority. Cost to backfill position.
Employing temporary staff member May have greater experience in developing schedules. Less disruption to existing work. Potential loss of knowledge gained through project. Cost to employ staff.
Consultant experienced in developing schedules Less disruption to existing work. Cost of consultant's fees. Agency staff supervision of project required. Potential loss of knowledge gained through project.

Regardless of which approach is selected, essential skills and knowledge required to undertake the project includes:

  • knowledge of the organisation
  • knowledge of modern records management practices
  • analysis and research skills, including functional analysis
  • interviewing and consultation skills
  • confidence to engage with senior administrative, professional and technical staff
  • understanding of records and record keeping systems
  • understanding of NT Records Service and NT Archives Service requirements
  • knowledge of applicable records management standards.

These requirements may be met by assembling a team of people, not necessarily all full-time, to work on the project. For example, the records manager and staff members who manage off-site storage and retrieval.

When using temporary staff and/or consultants it is essential that the project is actively managed by the public sector organisation and strategies are put in place to transfer knowledge during, and at the conclusion of, the project. A staff member with responsibility for records and record keeping systems may work closely with the consultant, bringing knowledge of the organisation and its practices.

It should be noted that the NT Records Service and NT Archives Service will not communicate directly with consultants without the knowledge of the public sector organisation.

Tip: Contracts for consultants should make it clear that they are responsible for documenting reasons for retention recommendations and contextual information in accordance with NT Records Service and NT Archives Service requirements, not just preparing a draft disposal schedule. The contract should also specify that the draft schedule and supporting documentation must meet the standard required by the Records Retention and Disposal Committee and that the consultants are available throughout the approval process. Without these conditions, the public sector organisation may have to undertake substantial revision of the schedule without the aid of the original consultant.

It is also important that staff and/or consultants with detailed knowledge of the project are available to consult with the RRDWG during the preliminary review and approval processes.

Stakeholders

It is useful to identify key internal stakeholders at the commencement of the project. Stakeholders might include business area managers, legal staff and internal auditors, and provide essential expertise on the value and uses of records in the organisation.

Information technology staff are also important stakeholders, especially in identifying the various business systems in which records might be held and developing an understanding of how these records are managed. These stakeholders may form a reference group to support the project, or be consulted on an individual basis. The interests of external stakeholders, whether other government bodies, private organisations, client / customer groups or the wider community, should also be taken into account during the evaluation process.

Timeframe

The project timetable should allow sufficient time for the key stages of the project:

  • the preliminary review of the draft schedule by the RRDWG and negotiation of changes (if required)
  • sign off by the chief executive and / or senior management of your organisation before formal submission to the Records Retention and Disposal Committee
  • availability of the Committee for formal submission of the schedule
  • feedback received and addressed by the public sector organisation.

How long a records disposal schedule project will take depends on the size of the organisation, how many functions it undertakes, and decisions on the scope of the project.

For a medium-sized organisation with a limited range of functions and one person working full-time, it may take approximately three months to develop a schedule covering current records and a small legacy collection. In contrast, for a large organisation with a wide range of functions, many offices to cover, e.g. regions and extensive legacy collections, it may take considerably longer and require a small team of staff to identify and evaluate all current and legacy records. In this situation a phased approach could be adopted in consultation with the RRDWG.

The length of time required to complete the formal approval process depends on a number of factors including:

  • size of the organisation
  • quality of work submitted
  • level of detail in the draft schedule and supporting information
  • complexity of the schedule (for example, whether extensive legacy holdings or a large number of functions are covered)
  • timeliness of responses from public sector organisation staff on issues raised by the RRDWG

Planning the project

Developing the functional disposal schedule to cover core-business records of a function within a public sector organisation is a significant project particularly in medium and large organisations.

Stages of the project

There are five main stages in developing the schedule:

  • establish a project plan and identify resources, timeframes and deliverables
  • undertake contextual and background research, including records holdings
  • identify retention requirements through stakeholder consultation
  • draft the records disposal schedule and supporting documentation
  • submit drafts to the Records Retention and Disposal Working Group for comment and referral to the RRDC
  • seek approval.

It is important to consider ongoing issues early in the project. For example, the documentation produced to support the schedule, legislative mapping, record class description forms and retention period justifications should be sufficiently detailed to be able to be considered by the Records Retention and Disposal Committee.

Last updated: 31 October 2019

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