Public Records Act spurs records management deals

The Act makes each individual in a public-sector agency responsible for the records and documents with which they are working

New compliance requirements are driving a surge in electronic records management tenders and deals in government agencies.

A number of public sector organisations have gone to tender or in search of information for acquiring electronic data and records management systems (EDRMS). Recent issuers of requests for information, proposal or tender include Housing New Zealand, Transpower and Te Papa and more than one district health board.

The Public Records Act, which aims to promote accountability between the Crown, the public, and government agencies and enhance public confidence in the integrity of public records, is a major driver of this activity, organisations report. The Act makes each individual in a public-sector agency responsible for the records and documents with which they are working.

Housing New Zealand’s information systems manager, Neil Cran, acknowledges that “the Public Records Act is one of the factors taken into consideration” in issuing an RFP for an EDRMS, “but the greatest reason to start the project is to become more business-efficient and have a greater ability to manage huge volumes of electronic information in a systematic way,” he says.

Housing NZ intends to implement the EDRMS initially in its government relations unit, which manages the relationship between the organisation and the Minister of Housing, and at the Hobsonville Land Company, the agency responsible for managing the former Hobsonville Air Force base. The system “may be rolled out to the rest of the corporation at a later stage”, Cran says.

An EDRMS typically classifies documents for easy search and retrieval and will usually cover the increasing number of less formal communications such as emails. This is also planned at Housing NZ, which has had a file classification system in use since 2002.

“We anticipate making some revisions to the content and grouping of records within the classification system to enable greater integration of information, and to take advantage of increased functionality in an Electronic Documents Records Management System over a paper-based records system,” Cran says, “but we do not expect we will need to make significant changes to the current structure of the classification system.

“All records are classified in the same system, regardless of format. Email does not need to be classified separately to other electronic record formats, and should not be, as email is merely a means of transmitting information. Email content needs to be grouped in a common classification system with all related information,” he says.

Transpower began the process of EDRMS selection with a request for expressions of interest in late June and received a large number of responses to this and a subsequent request for proposal, says ICT procurement manager Francie Chung, declining to be more specific. A short list of “a small number” of potential suppliers has been drawn up but as at last week [August 22] a final selection had yet to be made.

Chung says the Public Records Act is “definitely being taken into consideration”, but there are a number of other “business drivers” for taking on an EDRMS at this time, she says.

Te Papa, in a request for proposal issued earlier this month, mentions compliance with the Public Records Act and Archives New Zealand record-keeping standards as significant drivers for the move, but says its general goal is to “establish a central repository for providing internal access to, and management of, unstructured data (records), be they electronic, physical, or hybrid.”

The planned systems will “support recordkeeping standards through the embedding of business rules and processes [and] deliver to staff an intuitive, user-friendly recordkeeping solution that enriches their ability to do their jobs and deliver on Te Papa’s business objectives.”

The EDRMS will be called on to relate to a number of digital cataloguing systems already in use, taking on records of physical documents currently catalogued with Tower Software’s Trim database systems.

It will also work alongside the KE EMu (Electronic Museum) system, which catalogues the museum’s artefacts.

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