Records Management refers to that area of general administration concerned with achieving economy and efficiency in the creation, maintenance, use and disposal of records.


This is the practice of maintaining the records of an organisation from the time they are created up to their eventual disposal. This may include classifying, storing, securing, and destruction (or in some cases, archival preservation) of records.

A policy called Records Management and Disposal guides the organisation in this regard.


Refers to any information created or received by an organization in the course of performance of its duties and maintained for the pursuance of certain obligations or in the transaction of business.

A record therefore is any information irrespective of its physical appearance that has been kept or stored in a retrieval system in the organisation

A record can be either in a tangible form or digital information. For example- marriage certificates, usual office documents, databases, or e-mail. Records management is mainly concerned with the evidence of an organization’s activities, and is usually applied according to the value of the records rather than their physical format.

Records must be identified and authenticated. This is usually a matter of filing and retrieval


  1. Formulation of procedures on records creation and administration (basically called records keeping)
  2. To prevent the unnecessary use of space for storage of non-recurrent records
  3. To ensure that records which are no longer in active use are subjected to periodical and effective appraisal procedures at the end of predetermined periods and either disposed of or transferred appropriately.
  4. Ensure that records are not unduly multiplied
  5. Ensuring that “one subject, one file” rule is followed
  6. Ensuring that the functions of the various records management units are clearly defined hence preventing overlap and duplication of functions
  7. Introducing standard forms where possible hence avoiding the use of files
  8. Reducing the bulk of individual files by avoiding introduction of unnecessary papers into them
  9. Organizing the scanning and microfilming of documents.


Records must be stored in such a way that they are accessible and safeguarded against environmental damage. A typical paper document may be stored in a filing cabinet in an office. However, some organizations employ file rooms (registries) with specialized environmental controls including temperature and humidity.

Critical records need to be stored in a disaster -resistant safe or vault to protect against fire, flood, earthquakes and conflict.

In addition to on-site storage of records, many organizations operate their own off-site records centers or contract commercial records centers to keep their records. This is a remote backup site for records.


This denotes the tracking of the record while it is away from the normal storage area. An example is the tracking of a file from the registry. The statement used is that the file is in circulation. This is often handled by simple written recording procedures.

Modern records management environments use a computerized system involving bar code scanners and programs/software to track movement of the records. These can also be used for periodic auditing to identify unauthorized movement of the record.


  1. Open or main registry
  2. Confidential /Secret registry
  3. Personnel/Human Resource registry
  4. Accounts or other sectional registry.
  5. A combination of the above for smaller organizations.


  1. Receiving, opening, recording and distributing incoming/outgoing human resource mail and correspondence
  2. Opening and indexing of Human resource files.
  3. Classification and placing of correspondence neatly in the appropriate files and passing them promptly to action officers.
  4. Controlling and tracing the movement of files within the registry and organization
  5. Maintenance of security and confidentiality of all records
  6. Preparation, maintenance and updating of an approved and well planned filing classification scheme.
  7. Review and disposal of all non-current records in accordance with a proper policy for records retention and disposal.

TYPES OF RECORDS KEEPING(types of registry systems)

A type of registry system means a structure of record keeping practice within an organization. There are two main types:

  1. Decentralized and
  2. Centralized

In large organizations it may not be realistic or efficient to have a single central records office (registry). There may be several registries each serving a distinct section of the organization. e.g. there will be a general registry, personnel registry, secret registry, etc.

Where an organization has several registries or records office each serving distinct units such an organization is said to have a decentralized registry system.

In some organizations, there exists one large central registry serving all sections, divisions and units of an organization. Such an arrangement is referred to as centralized registry system.

There are certain advantages and disadvantages of having a centralized or decentralized registry system.


In a decentralized registry system records are made and used by a single unit within an organizationRecords are normally maintained and controlled at the point of origin. Decentralization of records should be considered when the following conditions exist: 

  1. The need to keep files near the individuals who use them.
  2. Constant reference is made to the records by only one unit.
  3. When the confidentiality of the stored information requires to be protected effectively.


Requirements for decentralization


Where it has been decided to decentralize a registry system, the following requirements must be laid down:


  1. The receipt and opening of mail remains the function of the main registry.
  2. All outgoing letters (with a few exceptions), should be handled and dispatched by the main registry.
  3. The filing system and other methods of handling and filing documents and files should remain uniform. No departure from this may take place without consultation with the Officer-in-Charge of the main registry.
  4. Records personnel should be trained in the main registry posted to the other sub registries and routinely interchanged.


Advantages of a decentralized system


It is important to note that no organization should permit bits and segments of its records to be scattered randomly wherever they happen to be created.  Neither should an organization arbitrarily force the centralization of records without regard to the practical needs of the offices that use them.


Disadvantages of a decentralized system


  1. The decentralized filing system gives rise to the duplication of files.
  2. It requires more accommodation as regards to offices, shelving and cabinets.
  3. Information flow is stifled, as it is difficult for action officers to know what is happening in other sections.


Centralized files are records that are generated or used by more than one organizational units, but are systematically arranged in one or more locations but placed under the control of one supervisor.

Advantages of a centralized registry system

The centralized registry system ensures:

  1. Uniformity in the methods used in the registries.
  2. Interchangeability of personnel within the various sections of the registry system.
  3. That personnel and accommodation are utilized more economically.
  4. That all related records are kept together thus reducing duplication of records creation.
  5. That there is more effective supervision of registry staff.
  6. That the registry staffs develop specialized skills and become more efficient.

Disadvantages of a centralized system

A centralized registry may:

  1. Cause delays in obtaining the required documents from the central registry because of the distance and volume of records involved.
  2. Not suitable for some of the documents received from other units due to its standardized classification scheme.
  3. Tend to become a repository (store) for all sorts of unwanted and unnecessary documents from various units.
  4. Not suitable for confidential files.




The most obvious and visible indication of a degenerate and inefficient registry is heaping of files and documents on top of tables, cabinets, on the floor and even on the corridors.  Further examination will reveal more underlying symptoms of a failed registry.  These are: –


  1. Deployment in the registry of staff of low ability and achievement.
  2. Loss and misplacement of files, which necessitates wastage of staff time and efforts in unproductive searches or duplication of files.
  3. Unprocedural, uncontrolled opening of files by the registry staff and action officers leading to proliferation and replication of files.
  4. High incidence of temporary files opened due to inability to locate the main files.
  5. Poor tracking system of files and failures to record outgoing and incoming files.
  6. Decayed (out of date), obsolete and rarely revised file classification schemes characterized by dilapidation and existence of files on obsolete functions and activities
  7. Existence of parallel filing schemes established and maintained by action officers for tracking files as a result of loss of confidence in the efficiency of the registry. They may also show unwillingness to return to the registry certain files they frequently use for fear that the files may not be easily located when they need them.
  8. Poorly titled files.
  9. Slowness in the provision of information and files.
  10. Filing of letters in the wrong files (mis-filing)
  11. Low staff morale in the registry.
  12. Absence of security of files and documents, which leads to their loss, and leakage of information.
  13. Ephemeral (valueless) records mixed with important records.
  14. Huge bulky files, which are not closed when they mature for closing. (Large files should be 2½“ – 3” then close – open another one)
  15. Lack of schedule of duties for the registry personnel leading to conflict, confusion and negligence in the performing of duties.


The quality of staff deployed in the registries determines the effectiveness and efficiency of the registry and the general records management functions.  It is essential to ensure that only competent, educated, intelligent and industrious officers are assigned records management work.

The registry should not be seen as a posting of last resort for the unqualified, incompetent and idle staff.

Each registry should have a clear schedule of duties for every officer who works there.

The registry should be headed by a registry supervisor whose duties include: –

  1. General supervision of registry staff including training them on the job.
  2. Sorting and classifying documents for filing.
  3. Reviewing and updating the filing classification scheme.
  4. Initiating, opening, titling, coding and classification of files.
  5. Monitoring the performance of the registry staff.
  6. Ensuring proper storage and security of documents and files in the registry.


In order for it to deliver effective service the registry needs cooperation and support from those it serves, particularly the action officers.

  1. Action officers must act on letters marked to them in the files and promptly return them to the registry.
  2. Use bring up system when they feel they are not ready to deal with a letter marked to them, instead of retaining the file.
  3. Action officers are expected to inform the registry whenever they pass a file to another office, by filing and returning the file movement slips to the registry.
  4. They should cooperate fully with all necessary records checks including censuses and searches conducted by registry personnel.
  5. Action officers should desist from locking non-classified files in their drawers.
  6. When necessary, they should provide guidance to the registry, particularly with regard to file titling and opening of new files.
  7. They should include relevant file reference on all out-going correspondence. (Our ref 🙂

The registry should ensure files and information are promptly made available when required.


It is essential for the registry’s performance to be monitored in order to assess its effectiveness.  This will entail collecting of facts and figures on the services offered by the registry.  Some of the following areas can be used for measuring registry performance targets.

  1. The number of files requested and delivered to action officers.
  2. The number of files returned to the registry.
  3. The number of letters and documents received and sent out.
  4. The number of new files opened.
  5. The number of files disposed of by destruction or transferred to the National Archives.

The registry’s performance can also be evaluated by circulating a questionnaire to action officers.

The frequency of complaints on poor service or lack of them can be used as a barometer for measuring registry efficiency.  A different unit of the organization rather than the registry itself can best do the registry’s performance.


All those appointed to be in charge of registries must be trained in the relevant discipline (records and archives management) including information technology.


Every officer working in the registry should have a set of clearly defined duties.

The schedule of duties should cover all aspects of managing and maintaining records including proper maintenance of the semi-current and non-current records.


Many organizations have set up registries without minimum appreciation of the very real hazards to which those systems stand exposed.  Registries have fallen prey to host of accidents, leading to loss of records and data.

Need for security

Information security is needed because: –

  1. Confidential information must be protected.
  2. Information must not be lost through accident or poor records handling
  3. Information is for the organization’s use. Access to information should therefore be regulated.

Precaution in the registries.

  1. Prevent unauthorized access to files.
  2. Avoid leaking of confidential information.
  3. Avoid malicious damage to records
  4. Prevent damage of records by fire, water, rodents, or any agent of


An official document must be protected if there is grave consequence for the organization from the disclosure to unauthorized person of the information it contains.  The degree of protection will vary, at the objective of having several security classification is to make it possible to know which precautions must be taken when handling a particular document.

Security classification applied to reflect confidentiality and sensitivity of the information.  The following are the security classification levels used in public offices: –

  1. Open: The records classified as open are sometimes called unclassified and should be filed in open files.  These files can be handled openly within the public office.  Access to these files must be limited to action officers within the public office that create them. (Local training file, maintenance file, stationery file etc)
  2. Confidential: The subject files classified as ‘confidential’ contain information which if disclosed to anyone not responsible for working on the subject could cause extreme (board matters; employee confidential information; disciplinary matters, policy matters files, audit files, Research and development records, Contracts and agreements, leases; Proof of ownership of property)

Among these may arise a secondary classification that is secret; classified; top-secret etc depending on the weight attached to the subject matter)


them to a greater of lesser extent.  “Damage” means that the physical condition of a document is altered in such way that its utility and durability is decreased considerably.  The process of damage or destruction may either be sudden and dramatic as when firebreaks out or when a registry is flooded by water, or it may take place unnoticed and over a long period of time as a result of unfavorable climatic conditions.

Types of agents of destruction

Fire: This is the greatest and most destructive danger against which all possible precautions must be taken. Careless smoking, faulty electrical wiring, lighting, use of detective electrical equipment, etc can induce fire.

Water: Water on documents results in the ink running within a short time and making writing illegible. Water damage may result from roof leakage, burst water pipes, unturned off water taps, etc.

Pests: Because papers consist of organic materials, it is sometimes destroyed or damaged by termites and other insects, which live on it. Rodents, such as rats and mice, shred the paper into small pieces in order to build their nests with it.  To deter them, restrict the presence of food in the storage areas and constant use of safe pesticides.(deter people eating in registries)

Climate: This is generally the most gradual and least observed destroyer of records. In consequence of the composition of paper and the reactions which are set up when the constituents of air combine with it, paper is inclined to weather in them, and the writing on it gradually fades.  It is widely known that when the air is particularly humid, paper is inclined to dry cut and becomes brittle and consequently breaks easily.

Light: When documents are exposed to light, their durability is adversely affected, the paper bleaches and the writing fades. This is especially the case when sunlight falls directly on to documents, but it has also been found that indirect sunlight and even artificial light will damage documents in the long run.

Dilapidation: by handling: Constant handling brings about dilapidation of especially on the edge, which become dog-geared, fold over and break of portions of the script are eventually lost or become illegible.  This is particularly the case where poor quality paper is used for stationery purposes. If the sill paper is such that it does not fit properly into shelves or drawers, it often more decapitated.  Dust and other materials, which blemish documents, at dilapidation, particularly the legibility of the writing.

Theft: A danger, which frequently is forgotten, is that of theft of records.  Although this does not happen frequently, and does not always lead to the destruction or damage the stolen records, it must be guarded against.  Documents are usually stolen and they can be turned to the advantage of the thief, either by their sale or by the sabotage or withholding of the information they contain.  Likewise information of a confidential nature, especially if it falls into the hands of unauthorized persons may jeopardize the interests of the organization.


It is unrealistic to suggest that all disasters can be prevented from ever happening.  However, their threat can be minimized to some extent.  One method of minimizing problems that might occur is to identify potential hazards by regularly conducting security inspection of records storage area, including off-site inactive and vital records facilities.

The facility inspection should entail the following: –

  1. The general construction and condition of the records storage sites.
  2. The area in which the facility is located, specifically its susceptibility to disaster (flooding, high winds etc.)
  3. the location and condition of plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and air conditioning, drain pipes, steam and water pipes, and mechanical equipment.
  4. Any past problems with leakage seepage, faulty wiring, broken pipes or similar problems.

The security inspection should cover active files areas, inactive and vital records storage rooms, vaults and buildings and should identify:

  1. Who has authorization to access the records
  2. How is this access is controlled
  3. The security devices are in place to prevent or detect unauthorized access.


Accommodation protection


This requires that all parts of all buildings have the best possible protection against floods etc., while some areas, such as basements storerooms may not be the most appropriate for sensitive records

For electronic records security passwords, Keyboard locks, workstation enclosures, and alarms to signal motion.  Rooms in which the hardware is located should be locked when they are not occupied.


Data Concerns: A good security system for protection electronic data will employ a number of different products, services, and resources which can be customized to an organizations particular needs.  Not every system or device is appropriate for all organizations.  Those responsible for implementing security systems must weigh the potential costs of suffering a loss.  Then, consider the value of each method and develop a complete security that is tailored for the situation.  In order to be successful, computer security has to be an on-going management concern.




  1. Risk Analysis: Software packages are available to help quantify potential exposure to security breaches.  This is a good starting point in determining your need for and development of a plan of action.
  1. Access Level: Users can be assigned a variety of access privileges, such as upload or download data from a File Server or network database.
  1. Passwords: Passwords can be used to control access to terminals, files, records, or even fields within a record.  In a password system, users must enter the appropriate password to gain access to the data for which they have been cleared.  Multiple levels of passwords can provide entry to different layers of information in an agency database.  The best approach is to use passwords to create a hierarchy of entry and progressively more complex entry codes as the information becomes more sensitive.
  1. Audit Trails:Security software programs can audit computer use by providing a comprehensive record of all network or system actively, including who is accessing what data, when and how often.
  1. Encryption: Data encryption is a process that “scrambles” data when they are stored or transmitted.  Data so treated become unintelligible without a data “key.”  When the encrypted data are sent to another terminal, the required software key on the receiving end decodes the information.  The use of encryption can be a complex process and should be used only for data that are highly confidential and require utmost security.
  1. Data Backups: Backing up disks is a common-sense measure to safeguard data in the event of loss through disaster.  It is also important for basic computer security.  Data backup is an important safeguard should an unauthorized user access and change an electronic file or document.  Collections of data, which are constantly being updated, such as electronic database, should be backed up regularly on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Weekly and monthly backups should be kept in a secure location, which is fireproof.  Backup media should be clearly indicated as such with the word BACKUP written on the label.


 In the modern world, information has become increasing important for the efficient running of organizations.  There is need to have information readily available whenever required for decision-making and problem solving.  Registries play a very important role in maintaining, controlling and availing information in an organization.  Greater attention should therefore be paid to the management of the registries and the information resources they contain.

Handicaps facing records management in the public service today

It has been observed that most of the recorpds management malpractice begins in registries.  Factors to explain this kind or situation include: –

  1. Lack of proper training of the registry personnel and follow-ups after training;
  2. Frequent transfers of trained and experienced staff from the registries to other duties thus affecting the proper running of registries;
  3. Undisciplined personnel manning the registries leading to constant mishandling of files, acts of vandalism etc. The fact is that in disciplined individuals will not be interested in seeing anything going well.
  4. Inadequate knowledge in registry filing classification and coding systems amongst registry staff. This makes retrieval of information quite tedious if not impossible.
  5. Absence of, and or failure to implement records disposal schedules. Consequently there is a mammoth growth of records in the various ministries and departments, majority of which are valueless.  Such records continue occupying office space and equipment unnecessarily.
  6. There is inadequate filing equipment, which has made files to be mismanaged. In some cases there is breakdown of the filing equipment in registries resulting into uneconomic and inefficient registry operations.
  7.  Lack of proper accommodation. Registries lack proper accommodation for their records.  Thus records are dumped on floors, on top of cabinets and sometimes mixed with unserviceable stores and equipment.
  8. Some officers maliciously withhold vital information; say if it deals with an officer’s promotion, training and even application for acting allowance or any other beneficial aspect. Such behavior has very adverse effect on the flow of information in public offices.  This practice amounts to corruption, which is criminal and punishable under the law.
  9. Lack of serious supervision within an organization.

Possible solutions to records management problems in the public service

As stated above there are various problems affecting the efficient running of registries. There is need to re-organize or restructure registry operations especially public registries.

The restructuring programme should address the problems currently affecting the registry staff and its operations.

The following require due consideration: –

  1. Registry personnel and organization:

The layout of a registry determines the rate at which files and information would flow.

A poor registry layout is a source of annoyance to everyone.  Poor equipment can greatly contribute to inefficiency in many ways.  It can and does have a very psychological effect on individuals concerned and cultivates bad habits in records keeping.

  1. Staff Training:

Training of personnel is an important element in helping to produce qualified staff to deliver a quality service.  Training of increasing techniques and responsibility should be encouraged and staff permitted to progress to higher grades.  Such improvement goes along way towards staff motivation and high productivity.  Public offices are encouraged to use the records management seminars normally organized by the Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service to uplift the operation capabilities of their registry staff.

  1. Staff deployment:

Proper deployment of staff should be considered.  The registry should be seen as central to an organization where its functions contribute highly to the efficient running of that organization.  This calls for deployment of staff of high integrity to man the registries.  Consideration should be given to rotation duties among the registry staff


Disposal of records does not always mean destruction. It can also include transfer to an archive centre e.g National archive or museum. Destruction of records ought to be authorized by a suitable regulation, or operating procedure and the records should be disposed of with care to avoid inadvertent disclosure of information. (cite commonplace example of pay slip information wrapping meat in the streets)

The process needs to be well-documented, starting with a records retention schedule and policies and procedures that have been approved at the highest level.

Digital records

The general principles of records management apply to records in any format. Digital records (almost always referred to as electronic records) are preserved using special software programs called EDMS or Electronic Data Management systems or an Electronic Records Management System (ERMS). These are computer program used to track and store records. ERM systems commonly provide specialized security and auditing functionalities tailored to the needs of organizations. Where an organisation has bulk data and records to store then a Commercial records center would be appropriate. These are facilities which specialize in the storage of paper and electronic records for organizations. The centers provide secure storage for paper and electronic records at a fee and can provide temperature controlled storage for sensitive information.

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