Survey of public sector information management 2019

A significant focus for Archives New Zealand this year was our in-depth survey of the sector. Over six months we developed a survey that was sent to 254 public sector organisations, including 176 public offices and 78 local authorities. The survey recorded an 89.7% response rate.

The data from those responses has given us a baseline of IM performance in the sector. We will repeat the survey annually, using the findings to identify new areas of focus to lift the sector’s IM capability. It will also serve to illustrate whether we are offering the right sort of advice, support and regulation to fulfil the purposes of the Public Records Act 2005 (PRA).

Read more about the survey’s findings under Public sector information management survey.

The Open Government Partnership

The Open Government Partnership is an international agreement by governments to create greater transparency, increase civic participation and use new technologies to make governments more open, effective and accountable. The State Services Commission leads this work in New Zealand.

Under the Third National Action Plan, we are leading Commitment 10: Monitoring the effectiveness of public body information management practices.

By signing up to the plan, we have committed to developing and implementing a monitoring framework that supports public reporting on how well government is managing information. The framework will extend across all the central and local government entities within our remit, including Ministers of the Crown.

As the framework is developed and rolled out, New Zealanders can expect to see improvements in the availability of insights and data on IM, in both individual organisations and government as a whole. These insights will cover current performance, progress over time and areas for improvement.

We will also be using our monitoring data to identify which organisations are performing exceptionally well and which we need to work with more closely to lift performance.

Audit programme

Monitoring public sector information and records management is a shared responsibility between Archives New Zealand and each organisation, under the PRA and the mandatory Information and records management standard.

As part of our monitoring framework, we are developing a continuous IM audit programme for public offices. Budget is confirmed to allow us to continue to develop the programme during 2019/20 and recommence audits 2020/21. The audits, along with the annual survey of public sector IM, will give us a new understanding of the state of government IM, its limitations, and how we can help.

We expect to audit between 40-50 public offices each year, enabling us to look more deeply into each organisation’s IM practices than a survey alone allows. We then have the opportunity to provide relevant advice and guidance to lift performance.

This audit programme will initially cover approximately 200 central government public offices. The programme will be designed to enable audits of IM in Ministers’ offices, but this will not occur in the first year.

We are not currently resourced to commence auditing of school boards of trustees (approximately 2,500 distinct public offices). They will require a bespoke approach and, as this sector is currently under reform, we will wait until its future shape becomes clearer.

Disposal transformation

The ability to dispose of information is a key part of the regulatory system as it empowers public offices to manage their own data and records. However, they may not dispose of any information without a disposal authority (DA) from the Chief Archivist.

Currently, DAs can often be very detailed and onerous for both the public office and Archives New Zealand. Once established, each DA must be renewed every 10 years to ensure they are still current and fit for purpose – a process which often results in a complete rewrite.

Using our work with District Health Boards (DHBs), we have started testing alternative DA models with the aim of finding better ways to support wider and easier-to-implement DA coverage across the public sector.

The DHB pilot provides three functional disposal authorities to encompass all of their business-specific information, data and records. These authorities are broad enough to be applicable in other agencies if their records fit. For example, a functional disposal class covering personal health information could be extended beyond DHBs to other public offices that hold this type of record. This would give consistency of treatment for these records across the public sector when deciding how long to hold onto them and whether or not to eventually transfer to Archives New Zealand, or destroy the records.

This approach could allow public offices to construct effective disposal coverage by selecting from the functional disposal authorities with broad applicability across government. We will be engaging with the organisations to test this concept and alternatives during 2019/20.

At the same time, we will work with public offices so they can accurately appraise and sentence information in a timely way, improving their IM systems.

Technology-focused research

The majority of government information is now created and managed within a Microsoft technology environment. Microsoft’s office productivity suite Office 365, used in coordination with other Microsoft applications, including SharePoint Online, is being adopted by an increasing number of government organisations.

Forming a view on how Office 365 might positively or negatively impact on effective public IM is a key part of our work in 2018/19. This research project has already identified productive areas for further work.

This research is continuing to investigate Office 365’s potential to change how organisations create and maintain records; how enduring access to information is assured; how government information can be used and re-used within and across organisations over time; and how the timely and effective transfer and/or destruction of information is done.

We will continue to work alongside IM personnel, and Microsoft, to ensue Office 365 and similar products are procured and utilised in a way that enhances government IM.

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