Why Records Management?

Sound Records Management is fundamental for good governance, effective and efficient administration. It forms the basis for formulating policy ,managing resources and delivering services to the public. Records Management also provides a basis for accountability and protecting the rights of individuals.
Sections 141 and 195(1)(f) of the Constitution, 1996 * determine that governance should be accountable and transparent. Accountability and transparency can only happen if -
  • the public, to which governmental bodies are accountable, has ready access to all information that underpins the decision-making processes of governmental bodies; and
  • the Office of the Auditor General * has ready access to information on the financial transactions entered into by governmental bodies to enable it to report to the public on the spending of their tax monies.


Governmental bodies should recognise their responsibility to the public by implementing and maintaining sound records management practices. To ensure that records management receives the attention it deserves, it should be a strategic objective in the governmental body's strategic and business plans. Heads of governmental bodies should also ensure that they budget for the records management function and that the necessary financial, human and technological resources are allocated to support the records management function.

What is Records Management?
Records management is a process of ensuring the proper creation, maintenance, use and disposal of records to achieve efficient, transparent and accountable governance. Sound records management implies that records are managed in terms of an organisational records management programme governed by an organisational records management policy.
Advantages of effective Records Management
A sound Records Management programme is advantageous because:
  • a well-organised file plan enables an organisation to find information easily. Records that are correctly filed and stored are easily accessible, and this facilitates transparency, accountability and democracy;
  • the orderly and efficient flow of information enables the organisation to perform its functions successfully and efficiently;
  • authoritative and reliable records are created and maintained in an accessible, intelligent and usable manner to support the business and accountability requirements of the organisation;
  • efficiency and economy are ensured by eliminating unnecessary duplication of records;
  • a retention and disposal programme ensures that the organisation maintains only those records it really needs for functional purposes; and
  • controls are exercised to ensure that only authorised persons have access to the information, thus preventing information and/or the records themselves from being stolen or damaged. This ensures the protection of privacy and confidentiality, and prevents the inappropriate disclosure of information that could harm the organisation or infringe the privacy rights of individuals.


Governmental bodies can only be effective and efficient if -
  • Records management is considered a business process designed to support business objectives;
  • Records are considered a resource and are utilised fully and cost effectively to realise business objectives; and
  • Each governmental body creates and maintains a culture which will promote effective and efficient records management to facilitate efficient  and timely decision-making.


Areas of responsibility

Broad responsibility
Heads of governmental bodies are ultimately responsible for the records management practices of the governmental bodies under their control. Their responsibilities in terms of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act (Act No.43 of 1996, as amended)(NARSSA Act) are set out in the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Regulations and the Records Management Policy Manual.
Records manager
Heads of governmental bodies should, in terms of section 13(5) of the NARSSA Act, designate staff members at the senior management level to whom they can delegate the responsibility to ensure that sound records management practices are implemented and maintained. These officials are the records managers of the bodies.
Sound records management is a collective responsibility which all members of staff have an equal obligation to maintain.
All users should be aware of the policies, procedures, and tools for managing records and they should be capable of applying them consistently to all records. The full co-operation of the users is necessary to file documents into the filing system and to protect records against loss and damage. Without this, there will be no records to manage.
National Archives and Records Service
The NARSSA Act empowers the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa (NARSSA) to ensure the proper management and care of all public records. To this end the National Archivist mandated the Records Management Division of the NARSSA to promote sound records management practices in governmental bodies.