This operational procedure is issued under the authority of the Commissioner and should be read together with the ACNC Policy Framework, which sets out the scope, context and definitions common to our policies.

Procedure Statement

This Operational Procedure sets out the process to be followed to administer and update the ACNC Records Authority and have it approved and reissued by the National Archives of Australia.

Context

  1. The National Archives of Australia (NAA) provides permission to dispose of Commonwealth records in Records Authorities (RA) issued under s 24(2)(b) of the Archives Act 1983 (Cth) (Archives Act).
  2. The NAA sets the methodology, content, and reporting requirements for developing and updating RA. They also create RA covering records documenting common government activities.
  3. Individual agencies develop their own RA for records derived from their core business activities. They work with the NAA to develop an RA submission. Once satisfied with the submission’s content, the NAA will formally issue the agency RA.
  4. The ACNC RA was approved and issued by NAA on 13 August 2021. A Records Authority Gaps and Issues Log was created to record any issues that might affect the usability of our RA. The ACNC Information Governance Committee (IGC) will monitor the Log and oversee the timing and nature of ACNC RA reviews.
  5. This Operational Procedure describes how and when to update an ACNC RA. The NAA website provides guidance on reviewing RA.

Overview

  1. Records authorities define the legal retention requirements of described groups of records that document Australian Government business activities. They are ‘living’ documents and need to be maintained to ensure their currency, completeness, and relevance. Data, information, and records derived from government activities that are not covered by an RA but should be, may not be disposed of.

  1. Agencies must regularly review and update their RA, as appropriate. For example, to reflect changes in records retention requirements, include new agency operations, or address ‘gaps’ in RA coverage. These reviews can take several months to complete and may require additional resourcing.

  1. The NAA advise that agency RA should be reviewed:
  • every 10 years.
  • after changes in:
    • related legislation or government policy;
    • agency functions or activities;
    • business requirements, for example, if the business use of records changes;
    • community expectations for the records and information, for example, wanting access for future research purposes.
    • when RA gaps, issues, or ‘errors’ that impact an agency’s capacity to meet regulatory, business, or community requirements are identified.
  1. The NAA requires agencies wanting to update their RA to contact their Agency Service Centre for up-to-date information and guidance. Given the amount of time that is likely to pass since an agency last worked on its RA, the process and proformas may have changed, previously used guidelines may no longer apply, old RA documentation may no longer be suitable.

Developing or revising a records authority

  1. The NAA guidelines state that developing a new records authority has six phases:
  • Identifying the need and getting senior management support
  • Meeting with the NAA for formal commencement of the project
  • Developing a submission for the NAA - the draft RA with supporting information.
  • NAA assessment of the draft RA, including feedback / queries for the agency
  • Records Authority authorisation - approved by the agency and issued by the NAA
  • Implementation
  1. The process is designed to identify all relevant related business activities and the records that come from them. It considers regulatory, business, and community requirements for the records to determine appropriate legal minimum retention periods for them.
  1. Reviewing and updating an RA involves the same basic steps as its development; the complexity of a review depends on its timing and scope. A small review might only address a desired change or a known gap in coverage. The ‘10-year review’ must be comprehensive to confirm the RA’s currency and completeness.

Determining whether the agency’s RA coverage is appropriate

  1. The ACNC RA must cover all the agency’s core business activities and set appropriate retention requirements for all the related records.
  1. Staff may find ACNC activities and records are not suitably covered if:
  • the agency started a new activity or took on additional functions - records related to those activities and functions are unlikely to be covered by the ACNC RA.
  • there were changes to (agency) legislation or government policy during the life of the RA, which may mean related activities, records, and retention requirements not covered or have changed.
  • issues have become more or less controversial or their importance has changed over time - the retention requirements for related records may need to be updated to reflect the change in status or value.
  • a new process alters a business need for information, for example, if the Compliance team had to refer to every prior investigation case file for a charity, there might be a business need to extend the legal minimum retention requirements for those records.
  • stakeholders’ demands for early bulk charity reporting documents decreases. The justification for the existing retention requirements might be outdated and/or the change in demand could be used to support a reduction in the legal retention period.
  1. Also, as staff appraise records for disposal, they may find ACNC information that isn’t covered by our RA or a disposal class that doesn’t appear to adequately address a stakeholder’s needs. This should be recorded in the RA Gaps and Issues Log.

Preparing for an RA review

  1. The NAA’s advice is ‘The first step is to identify changes and let us know what you need. Annotating your current records authority can be a useful way to establish what changes are needed and where. We can then talk to you about the scope and complexity of the changes needed and the best approach for making them'.
  1. With this in mind, use the Records Authority Gaps and Issues Log, relevant related information about issues such as those described in paragraph 14-15, and the NAA’s guidance material to determine if a review is needed.
  1. Prepare advice and seek the Information Governance Committee’s endorsement for the RA review via the IGC Secretariat (the Business Support Officer to the Commissioner). At this stage, you may not know the full scope or whether the review needs to be specific or comprehensive.
  1. After the IGC has given the go-head for a review, contact the NAA Agency Services Centre. An NAA Contact Officer will send an information pack and discuss the process, including their expected timeframes for each step.
  1. Use the Agency Service Centre’s advice and Information Pack to determine exactly what you need to do, what information you need, who you might need to talk to, and the documentation you need to prepare - particularly for the Records Authority Submission.
  1. Update the IGC about the size and scope of the review. The project may require additional support and resourcing.

Updating the ACNC RA

  1. RA reviews involve research and consultation with key stakeholders - including the NAA - to identify all possible relevant records and their retention requirements.
  1. Use the RA issues log, interviews with business areas and subject matter experts, related policies, procedures, work instructions, legislation, government policy, NAA advice, and other relevant resources to:
  • address known gaps and issues;
  • determine if there are any changes required to descriptions, records, and/or retention periods in the existing RA;
  • define any new functions, activities, and/or records to be added to the RA; and
  • justify new functions, activities, and records and their retention requirements, and/or other changes to the current RA.
  1. Consult interviewees and subject matter experts to confirm their interview notes and any resulting RA changes or additions, especially to retention requirements. If retention requirements are to be changed ask for justification AND ensure that other stakeholders’ needs will still be met before making any changes. You may need to refuse or negotiate the request if this is not the case.
  1. Document the findings; then seek feedback and approval from the interviewees’ Directors.
  1. Compile a ‘sources of authority’ list of the resources used in the review, including:
  • records of interviews with business representatives, stakeholders, and approvers;
  • cited supporting legislation and government policy;
  • cited annual reports, strategic plans, corporate plans, and business plans;
  • cited internal and external policies, procedures, reviews, and reports.
  1. Use the NAA’s Records Authority Submission template (from the Agency Service Centre) to draft a consolidated agency document. It must contain an assessment of all stakeholders’ needs, a risk assessment, and show how the changes address the agency’s current and future needs. Refer to the original Draft RA submission for guidance.
  1. Send the RA Submission to the Directors’ Forum and Executive Committee for approval.
  1. Finalise the formal external draft for the NAA and, with the IGC’s and Commissioner’s approval, send it to the NAA Contact Officer.
  1. The NAA will review the submission and contact the ACNC when they are ready to approve the revised RA. They may provide feedback or seek clarification, if necessary.
  1. Retain the records of the review, interview notes, research, reports, decisions, submissions, draft RA, and approval requests and responses, in accordance with the applicable disposal class (for example: AFDA Express Version 2 Technology & Information Management class 62623, where the retention period for RA development records starts when the RA is superseded.)

Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Through the IGC, the Chief Information Governance Officer will:
  • oversee the administration of the ACNC Records Authority as an agency Policy, ensuring it is reviewed and revised as required, to ensure it remains appropriate.
  • ensure that updates to the RA are consistent with current legislation and policy.
  • ensure the ACNC RA is adequate for the needs of the agency;
  • ensure that adequate guidance is produced to support staff in understanding Commonwealth recordkeeping requirements, legal disposal of information, and implementation of the ACNC RA.
  • oversee monitoring of the Records Authority Gaps and Issues Log.

Suspension of the Records Authority

  1. The NAA has power under s 24 of the Archives Act to approve and suspend RA.

References

Publication

DecisionDate of decisionIf not for external publication, brief summary of reasons
Publish26/02/2020This document is to be published at the same time as the RA

Version Control

VersionDate of effectBrief summary of change
Version 130/03/2021Initial document, as approved by the ACNC Executive