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Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records of the Government of Canada

Introduction

Purpose and content of these Guidelines

The purpose of this publication is to present institutions with retention periods for common administrative records based on best practices established over the past thirty years. It also contains Treasury Board policy direction on the retention and disposal of records containing personal information; however, nothing in these guidelines should be seen as constituting an authority or requirement to dispose of records. For direction regarding the disposition of common administrative records, institutions should consult Library and Archives Canada's Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDAs).

Use, interpretation and review

These guidelines include essential information to facilitate the retention of common administrative records. Before applying the retention guidance offered in this publication, institutions should ensure that their common administrative records are not already covered in an Institution-Specific Disposition Authority (ISDA) and/or seek the approval of senior department officials in utilizing the guide. For matters regarding the disposition of records, institutions must consult Library and Archives Canada's Multi Institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDAs) as they are the only authoritative regulation regarding the disposition of common administrative records. The MIDAs contain significant definitions and exclusions that allow institutions to apply the authorities correctly.

Layout and approach

The guide is divided into 3 sections to offer users various methodologies in how they wish to access the retention guidelines. Section 1 has been organized by function and sub-function rather than subject and its arrangement and descriptions based on Library and Archives Canada's Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDAs) for Common Administrative Records. Section 2 is arranged alphabetically by subject heading/activity within each function. Main subject groups appear under the heading Subject Group, sub-groups and subject descriptions under the heading Subject and Description and associated retention guidelines under the heading of Retention Guidelines and/or Remarks. Section 3 offers users an enhanced index linking alpha-arranged sub-functions, activities and subjects to the retention guidelines in sections 1 and 2.

When records are covered by an existing MIDA the retention information offered in this publication takes the form of retention guidelines expressed in months, calendar years and fiscal years. To avoid repetition and simplify the guide's format, a "General Retention Guideline" has been provided at the beginning of each function. The "General Retention Guideline" provides retention guidance on standard "Policy and Procedure" records and "Routine" correspondence records as they are common administrative records that are generated in many activities and appear throughout all five functions in the guide. Note that the "General Retention Guideline" for the Human Resources Management Function also includes retention guidance on Personnel (employee) files as the authorization dealing with disposal of Personnel files is covered in MIDA 98/005 for the Human Resources Management Function.

To streamline the search for file subjects, institutions are recommended to reference the broadened alpha index located at the end of the guide, in Section 3. The index correlates subject headings with either the common administrative functions as they appear in this guide or, if not common administrative, to alternate retention or disposition resources. Where records are more logically linked to other guides or authorities, a remark or alternate reference has been provided in the index. For example, if "Consult Institutional Guidelines" has been noted, institutions should refer to either: their Institution-Specific Disposition Authority (ISDA) for guidance regarding the disposition of operational records; or institutional guides for approaches to the specific retention requirements of records that are operational in nature.

In order to determine what constitutes as an appropriate subject heading for a particular record, institutions must take into consideration the context into which the record was originally created. For example, the retention guidelines for records produced as the result of an Accident will vary greatly depending upon the nature or subject of the record produced. If the record is a "death benefit" it is considered part of the HR Function and will be kept with the employee file, if a "claim" then the index will refer you to the Comptrollership function, if regarding "repairs" to a vehicle then you will be guided to the Material Management Function etc... By utilizing proper classification techniques, institutions are enabled to apply proper retention guidance to that particular record. See Implementation advice and assistance for further guidance and contact information.

Scope

The guidelines apply to all common administrative records which are collected, created or received by institutions in support of the five common administrative functions of the Government of Canada (General Administration, Real Property Management, Materiel Management, Comptrollership, and Human Resources Management functions), which are common to or shared by all federal government institutions, regardless of how the records are organized or controlled within each institution.

They do not apply to operational records, which are records created, collected, or received by a federal government institution to support and document business functions, programmes, processes, transactions, services, and all other activities uniquely or specifically assigned to that particular institution by legislation, regulation, or policy.

Administrative records which are unique to a specific institution, have an historical value beyond the expiry of their retention period, or which are more logically linked to the institution's operational mandate are not included in the new Retention Guidelines as they do not support a common administrative function that is shared by all federal institutions. As such, these records are not allocated a specific retention period within these retention guidelines.

This primarily occurs because, either:

the records can be more logically connected to the institution's operational mandate and should therefore be included in an Institution-Specific Disposition Authority (ISDA) governing the records of that institution;

or

the common administrative records are operational in nature and should therefore be included in an institutional retention guide

Ultimately, institutional representatives, in consultation with LAC archivists or portfolio archivists, are accountable for: applying the same risk assessment considerations (legal, fiscal, business) to these records, as those applied to the institution's operational records; and determining whether the disposition of any records is authorized in either a Multi Institutional Disposition Authority (MIDA) or in an Institution-Specific Disposition Authority (ISDA).

Where there is some doubt regarding retention, consultation should take place between representatives of the corporate records office, the information management office and/or the institution's ATIP coordinator. Where records clearly do not have a disposition authority or where there is some doubt regarding disposition, consultation should take place between representatives of the institution's ATIP coordinator, corporate records office and/or the information management office. See Implementation advice and assistance, for departmental and regional contact information.

These guidelines can be "used as is" by government institutions. When the guidelines do not meet institutional records retention requirements, they can be adjusted to accommodate specific institutional needs. Library and Archives Canada has established the following review mechanisms: when government institutions request Regional Service Centres (RSCs) to store common administrative records, and institutional retention requirements for common administrative records exceed the retention time frames offered as guidelines in this publication, representatives of the RSCs will request from institutional representatives justification for deviating from the guidelines and negotiate alternate retention periods with the institution's Corporate Records Office to ensure they meet institutional and RSC storage requirements. Both the retention and disposition of records containing personal information about federal employees, however, is non-discretionary and are addressed under the heading of Personal information.

Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs) and Offices of Collateral Interest (OCIs)

Institutions mandated to perform a government wide function on behalf of the Government of Canada are referred to as Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs). Institutions that are implicated in or associated with the performance, management or delivery of a function, program or service for the Government of Canada are referred to as Offices of Collateral Interest (OCIs). OPIs and OCIs are government institutions to which the authority, responsibility, and accountability to either perform a particular function or to aid in the administration of a function - for the purpose of this guide, an administrative function - on behalf of the Government of Canada have been specifically assigned to them by virtue of legislation, regulation, policy, or mandate.

Therefore, records created by Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs) or Offices of Collateral Interest (OCIs) that document their mandated responsibilities relating to the five common administrative functions are considered operational in nature.

Examples of those institutions for which the retention guidelines only apply to their common administrative records is provided in Section 1- Retention Guidelines: functional arrangement, Introduction to each of the five functions under Offices of Primary Interest and Offices of Collateral Interest.

Regional Service Centres

When institutions use Regional Service Centres (RSCs) to store records, representatives of RSCs will agree to accept the records only when they are covered by valid disposition authorities or where there is a plan in place which will result in a valid authority in a reasonable time. If these conditions are not met, RSC representatives will refer institutions to their Records Management Office.

With the exception of records containing personal information, institutions may choose to extend the retention periods in accordance with their specific operational and legal requirements. It should be noted however, that such extension may affect the ability of the institution to store these records in a Federal Records Centre (RSC), and the extension would need to be negotiated with the Federal Records Centre before records can be stored there.

Personal information

The retention of personal information contained in records that has been used by a federal institution in the course of its business is governed by Section 6 of the Privacy Act, and Section 4 and 7 of the Privacy Act Regulations.

Section 4 (1)of the Privacy Act Regulations states that personal information that is used for an administrative purpose (i.e. the use of the information in a decision making process that directly affects that individual) must be retained for a minimum of two (2) years unless the individual consents to its earlier disposal:

4. (1) Personal information concerning an individual that has been used by a government institution for an administrative purpose shall be retained by the institution
(a) for at least two years following the last time the personal information was used for an administrative purpose unless the individual consents to its disposal; and
(b) where a request for access to the information has been received, until such time as the individual has had the opportunity to exercise all his rights under the Act.

Guidance on the retention for records that contain personal information and have been subject to an "Access to Information" request is provided in Section 7 of the Privacy Act Regulations, which states;

7. The head of a government institution shall retain for a period of at least two years following the date on which a request for access to personal information is received by the institution under paragraph 8(2)(e) of the Act (requests made by an investigative body specified in the regulations)
(a) a copy of every request received; and
(b) a record of any information disclosed pursuant to such a request.

In establishing retention periods for records containing personal information, federal institutions should ensure that the Privacy Act and Privacy Act Regulations are applied.

These guidelines also include references to Treasury Board's standards for records described in Standard Banks and published in their publication entitled Info Source: Sources of Federal Employee Information. The authority for retention standards for records containing personal information about federal employees is the Treasury Board of Canada.

Implementation advice and assistance

Institutional representatives are invited to share with Library and Archives Canada any retention requirements not currently addressed by the guidelines. The guidelines should be viewed as best practices and are not intended to override the requirement for institutions to manage records with reference to the accountability framework of their enabling legislation, programme requirements and business practices.

In applying this retention guideline, institutions should take care to ensure that:

  • the records are not operational in nature;

  • the records are not of a mixed operational and administrative character;

  • the records do not support an administrative function uniquely or specifically assigned to an Office of Primary Interest (OPI) or Office of Collateral Interest;

  • the records are not otherwise excluded from the application of the MIDAs by virtue of the definitions and scope statement contained in the Appendix I for each of the functions contained in the MIDAs.

  • the records are not dated earlier than 1946

  • all administrative actions have been completed for a record before applying the applicable retention guidance.

Ultimately, individual institutions are accountable for the establishment and implementation of retention periods. Advice and assistance, however, can be obtained from Library and Archives Canada.

Application and interpretation of the guidelines

Institutional representatives are invited to share with Library and Archives Canada any retention requirements not currently addressed by the guidelines. For advice and assistance on the use of these guidelines and any other matter related to the management of government records, contact the Recordkeeping Liaison Centre.

Application and interpretation of the MIDAs

Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities for common administrative records apply to the common administrative records of institutions subject to the Library and Archives of Canada Act, provided that such records, collected, created or received in the conduct of business, are not used to support a government-wide operational function carried-out on behalf of the Government of Canada or are not archival in nature.

For any matter concerning the application and interpretation of MIDAs (i.e. the consent to dispose of records), contact the Recordkeeping Liaison Centre

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