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LCQ2: Management of public records

     Following is a question by Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (April 16):


     A direct investigation report released by the Office of The Ombudsman (The Ombudsman) on the 20th of last month has pointed out that last year, the executive authorities approved the destruction of a total quantity of 1 398 linear metres (standard measurement units of the quantity of records on the basis of shelf space occupied or the length of drawers in vertical files or the thickness of horizontally filed materials).  The Education Bureau was the policy bureau/government department (B/D) which destroyed the largest quantity of records (766 linear metres), followed by the Labour and Welfare Bureau (133 linear metres).  The Ombudsman also urged the executive authorities to introduce legislation to regulate the management of public records.  In this connection, will the executive authorities inform this Council:

(1)  of the types of records destroyed by the Education Bureau and the Labour and Welfare Bureau last year, and the reasons for approving the destruction of such records; whether the two policy bureaux have reviewed if there have been records destroyed by mistake; if they have reviewed, of the findings;

(2)  last year, of the respective B/Ds which complied and did not comply with the Government's current record management requirements on transferal of records to the Government Records Service, and the reasons for non-compliance by the B/Ds concerned; whether the various B/Ds have recorded the types of records destroyed; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3)  given that the Law Reform Commission (LRC) is studying the issue of introducing an archives law, whether it knows when LRC will conduct public consultation in this regard, and when LRC will complete the study and submit its report?


(1)  The types of records destroyed by the Education Bureau (EDB) and the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) in 2013 are as follows:

Policy Bureau   Types/Contents of Records
-------------   -------------------------
EDB             Time-expired administrative records,
                including general administration,
                accommodation and facilities,
                procurement and supplies, finance
                and accounting, human resources,
                management of information,
                information services and information
                technology; and time-expired
                programme records covering a wide
                range of categories, including school
                administration and operation (e.g.
                school timetable, school activities,
                etc.), matters relating to the career
                development and promotion of
                principals and teachers, substitute
                teachers, curriculum development,
                student guidance, Community Youth
                Club, various kinds of grants, etc.

LWB             Time-expired administrative records
                of the former Economic Development
                and Labour Bureau (EDLB)(Note),
                including general administration,
                procurement and supplies, finance
                and accounting, human resources,
                management of information,
                information services and information
                technology; and time-expired
                programme records belonging to the
                former Education and Manpower Bureau
                (EMB)(Note), most of which are
                statistics and study reports of EMB's
                statistics unit.

Note: Re-organisation of policy bureaux of the Government Secretariat took place on July 1, 2007.  Upon re-organisation, the policy responsibilities of EDLB were transferred to other policy bureaux, and EDLB was disbanded on July 1, 2007, whereas the former EMB was re-organised as EDB.  LWB was established on the same day, taking over the policy portfolios of labour and manpower as well as related administrative and programme records from the former EDLB and the former EMB respectively.

     Disposal of time-expired records, including destruction of records and transfer of records having archival value to the Government Records Service (GRS) for permanent retention, is an indispensable part of the life cycle of records and also an essential component in the records management of policy bureaux/departments (B/Ds).  Regular disposal of records facilitates easy retrieval of records in active use, and minimises costs for maintaining and storing records.

     All the records mentioned above were time-expired (i.e. records which have been retained for the period specified in the General Administrative Records Disposal Schedules (GARDS) for administrative records, or the approved disposal schedules for programme records) and had been appraised as having no archival value where permanent retention was not required, and prior approval had been obtained from GRS Director before destruction.

     To minimise the risk of inadvertent unauthorised destruction of records during the disposal process, the "General Circular No. 2/2009 - Mandatory Records Management Requirements" (General Circular No. 2/2009) provides that B/Ds should designate an officer not below the rank of Executive Officer II or equivalent to ensure that the disposal process is properly supervised and the records disposal procedures are complied with.  Such procedures include preparing an accurate list of files to be disposed of, ensuring the completeness of files having archival value, and segregating and checking records approved for destruction and documenting for accountability.  EDB and LWB had already followed the procedures on records disposal as required to ensure that no records were destroyed by mistake.

(2) In 2013, GRS handled records (including appraisal, permanent retention and granting approval for destruction) from the following B/Ds:

Policy Bureau/Departments
Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department
Architectural Services Department
Audit Commission
Auxiliary Medical Service
Buildings Department
Census and Statistics Department
Chief Executive's Office (including Executive Council
Chief Secretary for Administration's Office
(including Efficiency Unit)
Civil Aid Service
Civil Aviation Department
Civil Engineering and Development Department
Civil Service Bureau
Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (including
Innovation and Technology Commission and Office of
the Government Chief Information Officer )
Companies Registry
Correctional Services Department
Customs and Excise Department
Department of Health
Department of Justice
Development Bureau
Drainage Services Department
Education Bureau
Electrical and Mechanical Services Department
Environmental Protection Department
Financial Secretary's Office (including Economic
Analysis and Business Facilitation Unit)
Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau
Fire Services Department
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
Food and Health Bureau
Government Flying Service
Government Logistics Department
Highways Department
Home Affairs Bureau
Home Affairs Department
Hong Kong Police Force
Immigration Department
Independent Commission Against Corruption
Information Services Department
Inland Revenue Department
Joint Secretariat for the Advisory Bodies on Civil
Service and Judicial Salaries and Conditions of
Labour and Welfare Bureau
Labour Department
Land Registry
Lands Department
Legal Aid Department
Leisure and Cultural Services Department
Marine Department
Office of the Communications Authority
Official Receiver's Office
Planning Department
Post Office
Radio Television Hong Kong
Rating and Valuation Department
Registration and Electoral Office
Secretariat, Commissioner on Interception of
Communications and Surveillance
Security Bureau
Social Welfare Department
Student Financial Assistance Agency
Trade and Industry Department
Transport and Housing Bureau (Housing)/Housing
Transport and Housing Bureau (Transport)
Transport Department
University Grants Committee Secretariat
Water Supplies Department

     General Circular No. 2/2009 provides that B/Ds should dispose of their time-expired records at least once every two years. As regards those B/Ds which are not included above (i.e. the Central Policy Unit, Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, Environment Bureau, Government Laboratory, Government Property Agency, Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong Observatory, Intellectual Property Department, Invest Hong Kong and Public Service Commission Secretariat), although they did not dispose of time-expired records in 2013, they had carried out work related to disposal (including submission of disposal request or transferral of records for appraisal) in 2012, or have commenced the relevant work since end 2013/early 2014. So far we have not found any irregularities by B/Ds against this mandatory requirement on disposal of time-expired records.

     According to GARDS, B/Ds are required to retain permanently the records of disposal requests and the relevant disposal process, and a list of records disposed of (including destroyed records).

(3) The Secretariat of the Law Reform Commission (LRC) advised that the LRC had established a Sub-committee in May 2013 to look into the issue of the Archives Law with a view to making appropriate recommendations on possible options for reform where necessary. The Sub-committee has since been meeting basically on a monthly basis, having so far reviewed the current regime and embarked on a comparative study of the situation in other jurisdictions.  The Secretariat of the LRC advised that as the problems involved were rather complicated, the Sub-committee had not set an expected completion date for the task, but would finish the necessary study (including referring to the results of The Ombudsman's investigation) and put forward recommendations for consultation as soon as possible.  The Sub-committee will only finalise the reform proposal after considering the views collected during the consultation period.  The LRC will publish the final report after considering the draft report submitted by the Sub-committee.

Ends/Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:15


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