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Audits and Evaluations

Condition of Archival Records in Federal Institutions (CARFI)
Executive Summary

The purpose of this report is to provide highlights and recommendations of the Condition of Archival Records in Federal Institutions (CARFI) project which was established in order to gather information required to respond to the Auditor General's Report (November 2003, released February 2004) and to provide insight into the issue of "Records at Risk" within the Government of Canada.

Generally, GC institutions are taking reasonable care of their archival records (25% low risk for both recordkeeping and storage) if they are considered to be of on-going business value. However, as the business value diminishes, these records are consulted less frequently and eventually their retention periods expire; the records are put aside, often with less attention to records management, storage and handling considerations, and are therefore placed at risk (28% face high risks with regard to either recordkeeping or storage). In addition, federal institutions easily lose track of archival records when they no longer have business value if these records remain in the offices of the staff who created them and are not filed in corporate systems. This situation extends to records in all media including paper, electronic and other formats. As well, it was found that the majority of archival records are located in close proximity to the department's Headquarters operations and for a large number of GC institutions this means the National Capital Region.

The main issue highlighted by these findings is the risk that archival records are not appropriately safeguarded and managed by GC institutions once they lose their operational importance. It is recommended that LAC provide support to its GC clients through an increased awareness of the importance of managing and protecting archival records until they can be transferred to LAC, to facilitate the timely transfer of archival records, and to provide better storage alternatives within a cost-effective framework. Notably, the survey results showed that only 10% of GC institutions' archival records are stored in LAC's Regional Service Centres, with the bulk held in headquarters buildings.

Associated with this inattention to maintaining archival records once they no longer have continuing business value are the following situations:

  • the lack of electronic corporate filing in GC institutions, and continued reliance on the paper record as the official corporate record;
  • the inconsistent migration of electronic data in systems containing archival records; and
  • preservation issues, arising from the low use of permanent paper in paper records and the quantity and improper storage of nitrate film. These records will require treatment to ensure long-term preservation once transferred to LAC.

It is recommended that LAC take a leadership role to increase the GC capacity to understand the importance of recordkeeping and to instill good recordkeeping and preservation practices by all public servants, through LAC provision of training and support to the GC institutions' records management operations.

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