Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Vic gov recordkeeping slammed by Auditor

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-03-21


I’ve been on about poor government (and business) recordkeeping and document management for some time, arguing that this severely constrains economic performance, but also that government agencies and government-owned business enterprises are failing to meet their legislated obligations.

Therefore, it’s good to see the Victorian Auditor say the same things, with the typical between-the-lines insinuations that the government is breaking the law.

I’ve more than enough personal experience to know that things have been little different at federal level, despite the best efforts of AGIMO and National Archives DIRKS program.

The Auditor’s report is worth reading, but I’ll give you a few quotes from the Executive Summary and the Media Release.

But first, here are some of my comments submitted to the auditor in response to the report.  I hope all other information management professionals in Victoria will also download the report and respond to the Auditor’s request for comments.

Document management is a critical part of government efficiency." Poor document management not only leads to poor government operations, but severely constrains the ability to get a transparent government in line with democratic principles." Personally, I feel that document management is a key enabler of all aspects of government, and that without significant improvement, more problems throughout government will deserve close scrutiny by the auditor, while at the same time, making the task of the auditor much more difficult.

Now, from the Auditor’s report (bolding is mine):

  • Agencies do not have in place comprehensive frameworks to manage their records.
     
  • Specifically we found:
    • more needs to be done by senior management to promote and provide support for records management. There is a lack of understanding by senior management of what good records management looks like and, therefore, what should be done.
       
    • most agencies did not adopt a strategic approach to records management. This is key to advising management of the resources required for them to adequately fulfil their legislative obligations.
  • While most agencies had procedures and practices to assist their staff in managing records, they acknowledged these procedures were inconsistent with records standards and advice provided by PROV.

The Auditor goes on to say that while agencies aren’t up to scratch as far as the current legislation goes (especially the Public Records Act 1973), the legislation itself needs to be updated regularly, reviewed every 5 years to stay in touch with developing technologies that offer efficiency improvements.

It’s amusing to note how often, in how many ways, the Auditor pushes for PROV (the technical advice agency on record management) to not only advise, but assess the adequacy of other agencies.

Managers in agencies, and by implication their political masters, are criticized for being ignorant of requirements, don’t understand their business, the risks of poor records management, and in short, have not idea about strategies to meet legislation or provide a critical enabler for adequate efficiency and effectiveness of government operations.

The associated media release highlights another problem: because managers are stupid, they don’t ensure that outsourcing contracts force subcontractors to comply with the law:

Significant amounts of government business are outsourced to external parties, but government agencies are not ensuring contractors are aware of and comply with the agency’s recordkeeping requirements.  As a result, agency records may not be captured and adequately maintained.

This topic is important enough to me that I made 2020 gabfest submissions about it, and included aspects of metadata management in a submission to AGIMO that is apparently a large part of their forthcoming report.


See Also:


See Also:

  • Vic eGov site has a relink that references a Government Computer News article.  The Victorian eGov search provides the following snippet:

    Reality Check – commentary, by Michael Daconta. Government Computer News 17 March 2008. “… What can government organizations learn from the rise of Web 2.0 metadata? The most obvious lesson is that the value of data is not inherent in the data itself. Web 2.0 sites use metadata to make data useful, to make it relevant for a particular user at a particular time for a particular purpose…”

     

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11 Responses to “Vic gov recordkeeping slammed by Auditor”

  1. zombinol said

    The inability to manage government information has a strategic outcome for all involved :

    Lack of version control – helps the outsource company increase the storage required as you cant archive effectively and helps the government to be more confusing..

    Unreliable information – helps make the public servants less effective and analysis of government activity less potent and can increase the consulting companies costs when attempting to utilise data driven systems.

    Incomplete information – helps future inquiries to be less effective and assist with reasons to outsource activities enabling more time to be spent by the outsourced activity to acquire the complete information from a customer.

    Excessive retention of information with no value – not only does it mean more storage to be supplied from the outsourcers, future inquiries can take much longer wading through lots of potentially Irrelevant information.

    Unreadable information – one of the best was to help with making inquiries less effective.

    Lack of security for private, sensitive or confidential information – this one is probably the most useful, it totally helps future inquiries to be completely ineffective as any information or evidence can be tampered with or even better destroyed, also enables the Patriot act o be more effective when US outsourcers need to do some data mining, and can even help them or their local buddies in business to unfairly secure contracts by having access to stuff they shouldn’t.

    With all that I cant see why a government could be motivated to manage things properly, can you?

  2. Dave Bath said

    (Zombinol also added another comment, but apparently to the wrong post, so I’ve moved it here…..ed.)

    I totally agree with you.

    One reason why underutilisation of IT/IS is occurring is that It is evident that the government apparatus is not interested in investing in the knowledge to better manage our Info’ Systems and automated process as a national asset, the outsourcing of the nations Info’ Systems infrastructure to Information Technology Service companies like IBM, EDS, Fujitsu or InfoSys has done more harm than a dysfunctional IT/IS department ever could in eroding the national ability to harness new technology developments.

    The management of the techos was seen as a problem pre outsourcing and that problem has not gone away, instead of the techos being within reach to be better utilised, they and their knowledge is now hidden behind a contract and a force of sales and account managers.

    From many years of experience in going into battle with the service companies I have learnt one thing, and that is, Service providers only provide what you ask them to and continually remind them to, no more and considerably less.

    If you cant manage what you have already got, then giving it to someone else means wont make things better as you probably didn’t include all that was required in the contract to improve things in the first place and you also effectively walk away from improving what knowledge you had.

    Its not the necessarily the techos that need the bulk of the training and education but the management and business owners that think they know what they are doing, all executive should be masters at process improvement, the people and utilisation of assets will follow.

    If we took the current IT infrastructure away and only used clay tablets or paper the same management and logistical problems exist, albeit more costly and slower to utilise.

    When outsourcing, its not the problem that you have removed but the knowledge of how to manage the problem, the service companies take full advantage of this as when an outsourcing contract starts the effective and deliverable capability of the service company is always less than what it replaces, and over the life of the contract that capability might and I stress might come close to what was replaced. Minor advances in efficiency may occur.

    And while the Service company is building its ability to service you, most of your effort is directed at getting them to do better, and there is no time for you to improve how you should exploit new technology and business process automation. You loose your agility to improve your government, business and knowledge.

    So education of our national Information Communications and Technology assets was abandoned when we gave away the farm.

  3. Dave Bath said

    Aah, Zombinol, you’ve stolen my “it doesn’t matter if it’s clay tablets or quantum computers, the real information management issues are the same” comment.
    ;-)

  4. […] Personally, I think that looking after information, and making it discoverable by citizens is more important.  Victorian agencies (and their contractors) were recently damned by the auditor on this very issue. […]

  5. […] more than my own) in "Brumby treating us like mushrooms again" (2008-04-03) and "Vic Gov Recordkeeping Slammed by Auditor"(2008-03-21).  I’ll move some of those links and a few others into this […]

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