Developing a Disposal Authority

The State Records Office (SRO) can assist government organizations with the evaluation of records and the process of developing a Disposal Authority.  Disposal Authorities can apply to:

  • the disposal of current records;
  • records in a superseded filing system;
  • records of an agency ceasing its operations; and
  • a large accumulation of old records.

Agencies should not proceed with revising their existing Retention and Disposal Schedule, or developing a new Schedule, without prior consultation with the SRO

Online Retention and Disposal Application

When an existing Schedule requires major revisions, or development of a new Schedule is required, agencies will need to use the SRO’s Online Retention and Disposal Application (ORDA) to prepare the Schedule and submit it to the SRO.

ORDA is a web-based application that enables government agency staff, and records consultants working with agencies, to draft and submit Retention and Disposal Schedules to the SRO securely online.  After consultation, the SRO will provide officers / consultants assigned to preparing Schedules with access to ORDA.

An overview for using the system is available in the Short Guide to using ORDA (PDF, 440 KB).

If you require detailed guidance for using ORDA, please refer to the Agency User Manual (PDF, 2,100 KB) which contains full instructions for using the system.

For queries about using ORDA please contact the SRO on 9427 3664 or email sro@sro.wa.gov.au

Preparing a Retention and Disposal Schedule

In preparing a Schedule, agencies need to ensure the following criteria are met:

  • Adequate research: adequate research is conducted to identify any legislative or regulatory obligations that may affect the keeping of the organization’s records, including their retention, disposal and access provisions.
  • Adequate consultation: adequate consultation is conducted with key staff within the organization, and other stakeholders as required, to ensure business and community needs for the retention and disposal of records has been properly considered and addressed.
  • Aligned to business practice: the Schedule covers all core-business functions, and all activities carried out as part of those functions which are not otherwise covered by a general disposal authority. Note: Core-business functions should be distinguished from administrative functions. In general, administrative functions equate to the keyword terms in the Keyword AAA thesaurus published by State Records NSW. Records generated from administrative functions are typically included in the General Disposal Authority for State Government Information and should not be included in the organization’s Retention and Disposal Schedule.
  • Comprehensiveness: the Schedule covers all records of the organization, irrespective of format, which are not otherwise included in a general disposal authority.  If the Schedule applies to sub-offices or regional offices, the records from those offices must also be covered by the Schedule.
  • Suitable for long-term use: organizations should prepare their Schedule so that it is suitable for long-term use.  The Schedule should not be structured by business areas which may be subject to periodic change.  Instead, organizations should structure their Schedule by business functions and activities. Organizations should avoid the use of terms or descriptions which could build redundancy into the Schedule, such as referring to specific matters (e.g. business areas, form numbers, etc.) subject to frequent structural or procedural change.
  • Clarity of description: descriptions for functions, activities, disposal classes or other entries included in the Schedule must be clear and must adequately describe what they are supposed to.  The descriptions should be easily understood by an external party. If acronyms or abbreviations are used, full term descriptions should also be provided. Technical terms should be avoided unless a description of such terms is also provided.
  • Authorised: the Schedule must be reviewed by key staff and authorised by an appropriately senior officer (such as the Chief Executive Officer) prior to its submission to the SRO.

Structure and Content of Retention and Disposal Schedule

In preparing a Schedule, agencies need to address the following matters:

  • Introduction: each Schedule is to have an Introduction that addresses the scope of the Schedule and places the retention and disposal decisions of the Schedule in their proper context.  ORDA includes the Introduction for Schedules as part of a pre-populated template. Agencies will need to update parts of the Introduction where prompted.
  • Terms/Classes: the SRO recommends that agencies use a consistent Function-Activity-Disposal Class structure for their Schedule.  While other structures can be accommodated, ORDA has been designed to support this structure as the default.  This structure aligns with what is promulgated through Australian Standard AS ISO Standard 15489 – Records Management.
  • Databases and Business Systems: Key databases and business systems should be identified in the Schedule.  They can be included either in their own ‘section’ or where they relate to specific business functions can be included under those functions. Sentencing for such systems applies to the information in these systems, rather than the systems themselves. Many business systems are complex and can generate or manage a range of information. Consideration should be given to whether a single disposal decision for information in a given system is appropriate. If the system has recordkeeping capability, it may be appropriate to apply more than one disposal decision to the different types of information the system manages. Where information in the system is also captured in the organisation’s recordkeeping system, cross-references should be made to the relevant sections in the Schedule where disposal decisions for those records are made. As a general rule, corporate systems - such as financial, HR and records management systems – should not be included in the Schedule as the information in these systems are covered by a general disposal authority.
  • Legacy records: Legacy records are closed series of records from the organization, or which the agency has custody of from a preceding organization. Unless already covered in an approved ad hoc disposal authority, legacy records still in the custody of the organization should be included in the Schedule.

Organizations should no longer include a ‘Common Activities’ section in their Schedule.  These activities will typically be included in the General Disposal Authority for State Government Information.  If an organization conducts an agency-specific activity for multiple business functions, these should be included under each function.

Organizations should no longer include a “Website/s” section in their Schedule.  As a publication, websites are addressed in the General Disposal Authority for State Government Information.  As a government record, the information in a website can be sentenced under the relevant activities of the General Disposal Authority for State Government Information or the agency Schedule (as applicable).

Appraisal Criteria

Appraisal is the process of determining which records are to be retained as archives and which will be destroyed.  To appraise records effectively, it is necessary to understand the social, business and administrative context in which the records were created.  This may include why the organization was created, its relationship with other organizations, and its core business and administrative functions.

Temporary records may be governed by legislative requirements dictating minimum periods for retention before destruction.

Archives are records which are kept permanently because of their continuing value.

Temporary records can be destroyed once they no longer have any value, in accordance with an approved disposal authority.

In the appraisal process the following values should be taken into account:

Administrative value – records which document the activities and functions of the organization, and which are important to the continuity of an organization’s day-to-day business.  Minutes of meetings, policy files and some subject files are examples of records having administrative value.  Such records should have ceased to contribute to an organization’s business activities before their disposal.

Legal value – records which have legal value to individuals, organizations or the Government, or which form proof of agreement, contract or lease.  Records with legal value include birth, death and marriage records, lease documents, treaty documents, contracts and wills.

Financial value – financial records which show how money was obtained, allocated, controlled and spent.

Historical value- the research value of an organization’s records lies in the fact that a picture of the organization and its activities over time can be drawn from the records which have been kept.  Such records may have one or more of the values given above and will include records that document the organization’s establishment and functions.  Determining the historical value of records is often a more subjective process than assessing administrative or legal value.  The final assessment will be made by the State Records Office.

Note: In determining the above values, an overriding consideration is the need for organizations to demonstrate accountability for their policies and actions.  The extent to which records reflect these factors will have a significant influence on the way in which they are sentenced.

Many other records may be of archival value.  The staff of the SRO are available to assist organizations in identifying such records.

Summary

Developing a Retention and Disposal Schedule involves the following steps:

  • Review your Schedule as part of the 5 year review of your organization's Recordkeeping Plan;
  • Complete the Evaluation of the R&D section of the RKP Review Report form;
  • If major revisions or a new Schedule is required, the SRO will provide you with access to ORDA;
  • Ensure the criteria in this advice are addressed as you develop your Schedule;
  • Use ORDA to prepare your Schedule and, once authorised by your organization, submit the Schedule to the SRO via ORDA;
  • The SRO will review your Schedule and add any comments / recommended changes via ORDA;
  • You will receive an email notification when the SRO has completed its review. Address the matters the SRO has identified via ORDA;
  • Once all matters have been resolved, the SRO will submit your Schedule to the State Records Advisory Committee;
  • The Committee will review your Schedule and may request further amendments;
  • Once any matters the Committee have identified have been addressed, the SRO will submit your Schedule to the State Records Commission.
  • Once the State Records Commission has approved your Schedule, the SRO will notify you and you can implement your Schedule.

Further Information

For advice on how to proceed with obtaining authorisation to dispose of records or for information on creating a Disposal Authority, please contact the SRO’s State Information Management Services Team on (08) 9427 3664 or via email at sro@sro.wa.gov.au.

 

Last updated 9 October 2015