An information management policy provides the authoritative statement of the principles for the management of the public inquiry records. It need not be a lengthy document, but it is a statement of commitment by the inquiry to manage information appropriately so as to comply with information legislation, meet the ongoing needs of the inquiry team and deliver a well-ordered and comprehensive record at the end of the inquiry process.
It is important to establish a successful information management policy from the outset of an inquiry, as it will act as a mandate for supporting processes and procedures, while demonstrating the value of these to inquiry staff.
An information management policy is particularly vital as it will help inquiry staff to manage digital information in accordance with best practice. This is because in a digital environment it is more difficult to ensure that records remain complete, authentic and accessible.
The policy should highlight to staff how good information management can support day-to-day operations, ensure that the inquiry meets its statutory obligations, and deliver time and money efficiencies at the end of the inquiry process.
The National Archives recommends that the policy includes the following points:
- roles and responsibilities for the management of the inquiry’s records should be assigned to key officials within the public inquiry
- business processes, decisions, activities and transactions need to be recorded to form a comprehensive record of the inquiry
- information needs to be managed in such a way that it is accessible and meaningful, in the right format, to those who need to use it
- requirements for the management of all digital information created by the inquiry should be recorded (including scanned evidence, the inquiry website and electronic mail)
- any record that the public inquiry creates (including public records tabled as evidence) is Crown property and therefore subject to the Public Records Act 1958
- principles for the selection of records for permanent preservation needs to be defined including the type of information that can be disposed of
- sensitive information needs to be managed in accordance with best practice and in a manner that facilitates an efficient review of selected records prior to transfer