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The Administration's response to The Ombudsman's direct investigation report

     The Government will study The Ombudsman's recommendation for introducing an archives law in Hong Kong in the context of the Law Reform Commission (LRC) review on the subject, a government spokesman said today (March 20).

     "The current regime relating to the management and preservation of, and access to government or public records for the purpose of considering whether reform is needed is now under review by the LRC. With the benefit also of the LRC study, especially with its comparative analysis of relevant overseas legislation, the Government will take a view on whether, and if so how, the archives management regime should be underpinned by legislation in due course," the spokesman said.

     Government bureaux/departments (B/Ds) are fully aware that records are valuable resources of the Government to support evidence-based decision-making, and to meet operational and regulatory requirements. The Administration is committed to the systematic and timely management of government records, with a view to increasing our archival holdings for public access over time. The Government Records Service (GRS) plays a key role in developing and overseeing the government records management regime.

     "All B/Ds are committed to proper creation/collection of records. B/Ds have Departmental Records Managers appointed to ensure proper management of government records and that retention and disposal schedules covering their programme records are put in place. To date, every B/D (Note 1) has transferred records to the GRS for appraisal and each one of them has contributed to the archival holdings in the GRS. We are confident that a steady stream of records with archival value will be added to GRS holdings in the years to come."

     Commenting on the backlog problem pointed out by The Ombudsman, the spokesman said, "The GRS is working at full steam to clear the records appraisal backlog in 2015. The GRS will also seek to increase resources to clear the backlog on the processing of B/Ds' retention and disposal schedules. In the longer term, the GRS will need to review its overall staffing and skills mix in order to tackle the increasing workload and to prepare for future challenges following the roll-out of the Electronic Recordkeeping System (ERKS)."

     The GRS will, as recommended by The Ombudsman, continue to encourage public organisations to follow GRS' records management requirements and standards.

     "On this, the GRS has already made a head-start by issuing 'Good Records Management Practices' to government-owned or funded statutory bodies in 2011 and organised a seminar in October 2013 which was well attended by 150 participants from 20 statutory bodies," the spokesman said.

     Commenting on the progress of implementing ERKS within the Government, the spokesman said, "The GRS has published seven electronic records management publications and guidelines for compliance and reference by B/Ds since 2009 and is prepared to roll out more. The ERKS project in the GRS, which is scheduled for completion in the first half of 2014, will also serve as a role model for reference by B/Ds. The GRS is working closely with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer to map out the way forward.

     "Pending the full launch of ERKS within the Government, B/Ds are reminded to diligently adopt the print-and-file arrangements to ensure record integrity. Resources permitting, the GRS will also consider conducting studies on the electronic records management situations in B/Ds," he added.

     Though not underpinned by law, the current administrative records management regime is binding on all government servants. If a government servant disobeys or neglects or fails to observe the relevant regulations and circulars appertaining to his duties, disciplinary proceedings may be taken against him and he may be held pecuniarily responsible for any financial loss to Government resulting from each disobedience, neglect or failure.

     The spokesman said that the Administration will study The Ombudsman's report and will continue to implement practicable measures to improve the current records management regime. It will also actively participate in the study being carried out by the LRC.

Note 1: Except the Secretariat, Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance, which was only established in 2006.

Ends/Thursday, March 20, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:45


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