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Ireland

Introduce Modern Document Management Procedures (IE0043)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Ireland National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: National Archives, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Support Institution(s): All government departments

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Legislation & Regulation, Records Management, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ireland End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Ireland Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Not Relevant

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Objective: To propose a Public Service Records Management Plan to facilitate coherent and comprehensive records management in the Public Service that will assist Public Service bodies in carrying out their functions effectively in addition to supporting the requirements of National Archives, Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation. Status quo: Records management relates to a broad set of corporate responsibilities and enables Public Service bodies carry out their functions effectively in addition to supporting the smooth operational requirements of National Archives, Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation In 2005 the Civil Service Centre for Management Organisation Development (CMOD) issued guidance regarding records management (‘Old rules are still good rules - Record Management Guidelines). Over time, organic record keeping practises have evolved including the proliferation of disparate record keeping systems of varying quality based on digital technologies. The advantages of digital systems in creating, copying and distribution of documents has diluted the underlying systems which were traditionally used to manage files and to ensure the context, reliability and integrity of the record. Ambition: The Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform, and Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, will shortly bring a memorandum to Government requesting approval for a proposed Public Service Records Management Plan to deliver the policies, guidelines, structures and systems necessary to facilitate coherent and comprehensive records management. The Plan, will also address the issue of electronic and digital records, as well as giving direction to public bodies with regard to records not meriting long-term preservation management. Lead implementing organisations: National Archives, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Timeline: January 2017 to January 2020.
Commitment 10: Introduce Modern Document Management Procedures OGP values Governance, Transparency New or ongoing commitment New Lead implementation organisations National Archives, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Other actors involved - government All government departments Verifiable and measurable milestones to fulfil the commitment New or ongoing Start date End date Present a Public Service Records Management Plan to the Government for decision New Q4 2016 Q1 2017 More milestones will be added to show how this commitment will be delivered subject to Government’s approval of the Plan. If approved it is envisaged the plan will be delivered over three years. New Q1 2017 Q1 2020.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

10. Introduce Modern Document Management Procedures

Objective: To propose a Public Service Records Management Plan to facilitate coherent and comprehensive records management in the Public Service that will assist Public Service bodies in carrying out their functions effectively in addition to supporting the requirements of National Archives, Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation.

Status quo: Records management relates to a broad set of corporate responsibilities and enables Public Service bodies carry out their functions effectively in addition to supporting the smooth operational requirements of National Archives, Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation

In 2005 the Civil Service Centre for Management Organisation Development (CMOD) issued guidance regarding records management (‘Old rules are still good rules - Record Management Guidelines). Over time, organic record keeping practises have evolved including the proliferation of disparate record keeping systems of varying quality based on digital technologies. The advantages of digital systems in creating, copying and distribution of documents has diluted the underlying systems which were traditionally used to manage files and to ensure the context, reliability and integrity of the record.

Ambition: The Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform, and Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, will shortly bring a memorandum to Government requesting approval for a proposed Public Service Records Management Plan to deliver the policies, guidelines, structures and systems necessary to facilitate coherent and comprehensive records management. The Plan, will also address the issue of electronic and digital records, as well as giving direction to public bodies with regard to records not meriting long-term preservation management.

Milestones:

10.1. Present a Public Service Records Management Plan to the Government for decision

10.2. More milestones will be added to show how this commitment will be delivered subject to Government’s approval of the Plan. If approved it is envisaged the plan will be delivered over three years.

Responsible institution: National Archives, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Supporting institutions: All government departments

Start date: January 2017

End date: January 2020

Context and Objectives

Classical scholars of bureaucracies, such as Max Weber, have highlighted one of their key features: business is managed on the basis of written documents and a filing system.[Note: The Weberian analysis of ‘ideal types,’ based on his pioneering work on bureaucracies, is seen in most introductory texts on political science, such as Heywood, 2013, Politics 4th edition, London: Palgrave, Chapter 16. For a fascinating recent analysis to better understand the influences on Weber’s conceptualisation of bureaucracies, see G. Cochrane, 2017, Max Weber's Vision for Bureaucracy: A Casualty of World War I, London: Palgrave ] Therefore, having a system of written documents which records all of the decisions that are taken by public bodies is essential in any modern democracy. From a different vantage, poor management of records poses the problem of incomplete information that is not easily accessible electronically. Electronic filing is a particularly important issue in Ireland; it lacks a modernised infrastructure to centralise the volume of historically written documents as well as store more recent communications (such as emails) within and between public bodies. The lack of housed information within a clear structure is problematic precisely because government needs to be accountable for its actions, especially if there is a freedom of information (FoI) request from citizens. FoI, as seen in the government’s commitment to it in the last action plan, is a particularly salient issue in Ireland, given the public’s historical desire to file requests.

This commitment seeks to propose a Public Services Records Management Plan to create robust records management in public bodies so that they comply with the requirement of the National Archives, Freedom of Information, and Data Protection legislation. The commitment also calls for more milestones to be added in the future.

The Public Services Records Management Plan theoretically improves the management of public records, including electronic and digital records. Improving the management of records, however, does not necessarily mean improving transparency or the release of records to the public. As such, this could theoretically end up as an internal change with no public face, especially considering that the public-facing element of it is not specified in the commitment language. As such, Milestone 10.1 is coded as having unclear relevance to OGP values. Moreover, Milestone 10.2 (which calls for more milestones) is not relevant to any OGP values. There is little information for what the Public Services Records Management Plan will include, only that it will be presented to the government. Similarly, the goal to add more milestones in the future is highly vague. Therefore, the specificity is marked as low. Even if the Public Services Records Management Plan is completed and presented to the government, the commitment does not explain how the plan will be put in motion once approved, making the potential impact minor.

Completion

The completion level for this commitment is limited and behind schedule. In October 2016, shortly before the action plan was adopted, the National Archives held ‘a seminar for civil and public servants to raise awareness of the value and importance of good records management,’ which also ‘considered challenges of preserving electronic records.’[Note: ‘National Archives progresses new public service records management plan,’ MerrionStreet.ie, 19 October 2016, https://merrionstreet.ie/en/News-Room/Releases/National_Archives_progresses_new_public_service_records_management_plan_.html.] At the start of the action plan, a memorandum from the minister of DPER and the minister for arts, heritage, regional, rural and Gaeltacht affairs has been sent to the cabinet on the three-year plan to reform records management across the public service. However, the progress report on the commitment indicates that a Public Service Records Management Plan was not agreed by cabinet during the first year of the plan.

There is no evidence that the government has engaged potential stakeholders in the formulation of the memorandum and/or the plan, as verified by one of the stakeholders that made a relevant submission on this commitment during action plan development, Transparency International. Although the action plan states that this is a three-year plan, the lack of substantive progress in the first year beyond the memorandum on the plan indicates that implementation is behind schedule.

Next Steps

Given that this commitment has a timeframe of over three years, it is likely that the commitment will not be completed by the second year of the action plan and it should therefore be included in the next plan. Going forward, however, the IRM researcher recommends that Milestone 10.2 not be included due to its lack of any specificity, or that if it is to be included then more specificity should be given. Because citizens may directly benefit from this commitment if there is more of a guarantee that they will attain additional access to information as a result, it is also advisable that reference to developing the plan in conjunction with stakeholders be made explicit in the next action plan.

IRM End of Term Status Summary


Commitments

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