Reviewing records management in government

Sir Alex Allan’s review

Sir Alex Allan is a senior civil servant who is currently the Prime Minister’s independent adviser on ministerial standards. In March 2014, the Cabinet Secretary asked him to carry out a review of how government departments were managing their process for releasing records.

The review covered the:

  • annual release of papers
  • ability and readiness of government departments to meet the requirements of moving from a 30- to a 20-year rule
  • process for withholding information where release would harm individuals or the national interest

The review was commissioned by the Prime Minister and covers records from UK government departments but not from Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland governments or the intelligence agencies. Read Sir Alex Allan’s records review.

In response to the review The National Archives will support each of the recommendations in the ways outlined below.

Information Management Assessments

We will:

  • continue to build on the Information Management Assessment Programme to provide a robust assessment of departments’ information management capability
  • ensure all the major government departments undertake Information Management Assessments by March 2016
  • reassess government departments every three to five years depending on level of risk
  • publish all reports and action plans online
  • support departmental Knowledge and Information Management (KIM) teams to implement the recommendations by providing advice, training and guidance
  • review implementation of the Information Management Assessment action plans with departments at six and 12 months to monitor if recommendations are being implemented
  • publish and update the forward programme of reviews online
  • undertake unscheduled assessments where there are concerns about a department’s performance
  • publish a good practice report highlighting case studies of good practice from the Information Management Assessments
  • publish a summary of lessons learnt from the Information Management Assessments by December 2015 highlighting examples of best practice and common areas where improvements are needed
  • update the Information Management Self-Assessment to allow departments and other public sector bodies to evaluate their information management performance
  • promote the S46 Code of Practice as the guide to good information management

Accounting and reporting

We will:

  • report annually to the meeting of Permanent Secretaries, by the Keeper of The National Archives, giving an overview of departmental performance
  • encourage departments to conduct audits and to report on the accuracy of the figures returned when collecting data on legacy holdings for the record transfer report
  • require departments to compile, update and publish ‘What to Keep’ schedules on their pages on GOV.UK and to demonstrate how those are being applied to their digital information systems

Supporting wider government initiatives

We will:

  • support Cabinet Office in leading the review and release of records due to transfer, to allow themed releases
  • continue to work with Crown Commercial Services in the role of intelligent customer function to advise on potential for outsourcing of records management

The digital challenge

We will:

  • continue to provide advice, training and guidance on how to appraise and select digital records and keep them safe by applying the principles of digital continuity
  • continue to develop our processes for the ingest of digital records and plan for the digital records future through our Digital Transfer Project, currently underway
  • contribute to and support the review into the strategy for digital records as recommended by both the Dacre review (2007) and the report by Sir Alex Allan

Widening engagement

We will:

  • support the Head of the KIM Profession in the development of skills for managing information and records in government departments
  • work with heads of KIM to support a consistent approach to how they cover their Information management status in the annual reporting cycle