Public Trust in Records

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Submitted By
G. Lanctot
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Votes: 116

While I agree fully with Dr. Doughty and Mr. Justice Gomery regarding the absolute importance of the official record and the pressing need for legislation, I believe legislation alone is not enough to achieve integrity. Proving both absence of records and criminal intent will be difficult. After my decades of experience in the public service and interacting with ministers' offices, it is clear that records issues are deeply ingrained in both the political and bureaucratic cultures. To achieve meaningful accountability, transparency, and open government, Canada should build on the example of the White House by

  1. setting email and document management systems in the offices of all ministers, deputies, ADMs and DGs so that no deletion is possible and so that the system is transferred intact to the Clerk or to the Archives as incumbents leave office.
  2. provide the technical capability and the search engine to manage all these records according to the archives, access to information and privacy laws.
  3. require in the Duty to Document legislation that all who are paid from public funds only use official email and document management systems for their official duties.
  4. disable the pin to pin function on all government owned cell phones.
  5. add a commitment to create and maintain a complete record to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.

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Comments

Submitted by G. Lanctot on June 23, 2014 - 4:42 PM

True. That is how the system is supposed to work. But I would like to hear from Library and Archives Canada with regard to their experience over the last decade with the electronic records of ministers' offices. Why did Mr. Justice Gomery feel compelled to comment on the integrity of the official record and how could PCO have a standard protocol to delete the email accounts of staff as they leave the PMO? Given the hectic pace and the pressures on staff in the offices of ministers and senior officials, records requirements are not likely priorities. And with constant staff turnover and the highly charged political atmosphere when governments leave office, such requirements can be forgotten. Given that, as you note, record retention is already mandated by law, there can be little hesitation now to ensure compliance by using the available technology to prevent inadvertent deletions. With the drift towards an oral culture at the most senior levels, the ubiquitous 'delete' key and the difficulty of proving the absence of records, I suggest that the current public service Values and Ethics Code be amended to show that one of the key commitments of a professional public service is to create and maintain a record of actions, decisions and transactions. Good recordkeeping is fundamental to the accountability of the public service and is the basis for audit and the study of public policy. Recordkeeping has been a remains a fundamental defining function of a public service.

Submitted by open-ouvert on June 20, 2014 - 5:44 PM

Thanks for your comments. As you may know, under the Library and Archives Canada Act, the records of the Office of a Minister are evaluated and those deemed historical are acquired by Library and Archives Canada. Once transferred, those records are searchable through collections.gc.ca. The management of day-to-day government records management is governed by the mandatory Policy on Information Management and, more specifically the Directive on Recordkeeping. This includes the management of all types of electronic communication and stipulates that information resources of business value, including decisions, be captured in a corporate repository. For more information, have a look at our response in the thread on “Integrity in Recordkeeping” http://open.canada.ca/en/Integrity_in_Recordkeeping On the last point you raised, could you give us a little bit more by what you mean by “add a commitment to create and maintain a complete record to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector”?