Draft Schedule: Financial Management

The draft schedule for the Financial Management function has been vetted by a group of expert stakeholders and has been reviewed by staff at the State Archives of North Carolina.  Now we want to provide an opportunity for a broader audience of state government employees to review this draft and provide constructive feedback.  You can access the draft here, and explanations of the format and terminology follow:

RC No. – a unique identifying number assigned to each record type for ease of reference

functional_16The example above indicates the numbering scheme for Employment Security Records (1652.S):

  • Risk Management is the 16th function
  • Office Safety and Security is the 5th sub-function under Risk Management
  • Employee Security Records are the 2nd record type under Office Safety and Security
  • Retention abbreviations provide a quick method of identifying the retention requirement for a particular record:

abbreviationsRecord Types – groupings of records that are “created, received, or used in the same activity.” (From Richard Pearce-Moses, A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology).

Description – a description of the records, often including the types of records that can be frequently found in that series.

Disposition Instructions – instructions dictating the length of time a series must be retained, and how the office should dispose of those records after that time (either by destruction or transfer to the State Archives).  For any records that will transfer to the State Records Center, either for temporary storage or for transfer to the State Archives, there will be an Appendix that lists the item number that is necessary to track these records.  (Note: Although the footnote references this appendix, that information is still being collected and is not included in this draft.)functional_border

Citation – a listing of references to statutes, laws, and codes related to the records series. Citations can include Authorities (governing the creation of records), Confidentiality (limiting access to public records), and Retention (setting a retention period).

The Disposition Instructions include a number of triggers that begin the retention period:

  • Closed: With a record such as an investigation, the retention period begins once the case is closed.
  • Complete: With a record such as a report, the retention period begins once the report has been finalized.
  • Reference value ends: Once the content of a record is no longer useful or significant, it can be destroyed. This disposition is usually applied to records that were not created by the agency.
  • Superseded or Obsolete: With any record that is produced in versions, an older version can be destroyed when the new version is received.

Please review the current draft and Leave a Reply at the bottom of this page to share your feedback with us.  This draft will be available for review for 30 days.

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5 thoughts on “Draft Schedule: Financial Management

  1. Like most of the records retention schedules, these are unnecessarily complicated and impractical. Is it reasonable, for example, to expect Financial Management staff – on a daily basis – to consider every document, including emails, that they send and receive and to determine whether each is an “administrative budget record,” including “research, correspondence, and other related records” (RC 521.2, to be retained for 2 years after close of the fiscal year) or perhaps a “budget request,” including “justifications and requests for revisions” (RC 521.3, to be retained for 3 years after close of the fiscal year)? Is it really necessary for there to be 29 categories of “accounting” records, each with its own disposition instructions? Is it really necessary to have some many fine distinctions between records that must be kept for 30 days, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, 6 years, 7 years, 10 years, 11 years, 13 years, 35 years, until superseded, for 3 years after account determined to be uncollectable, until released from audits, and permanently?

    Keep in my mind that the people who are to held responsible for these byzantine requirements are extremely busy and have important substantive duties to discharge (apart from records retention) and that different agencies and offices operate differently and generate and receive different types of documents, which can be very difficult to categorize in such complicated schema. Unfortunately, the bewildering and unnecessary complexity of these retention schedule is nothing new. Most of the rules and guidelines published by the Division of Archives reflect this same lack of awareness of the practical, day-to-day realities of busy public servants and the same obliviousness to the costs and burdens these elaborate, yet vague, definitions and standards impose on the thousands of people who work daily with public records.

    What is needed, I believe, is a radical re-think and simplification of the Division’s approach to records management – something that can easily taught and faithfully administered by conscientious civil servants without creating a huge and unproductive drain on their time and publicly-financed salaries. I am encouraged that the Division is at least seeking public input on these matters and hope that there will be openness to the notion that the state and its citizens do not always benefit from more and increasingly complex public records retention requirement – especially when they are so arcane and labyrinthine as to be virtually unworkable.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to look at this draft. Let me provide some context to help explain the decisions that went into the drafting of this financial management schedule. When these functional schedules go into effect in the fall, they will replace the existing General Schedule for State Agency Records and all individual agency program schedules. There are thousands of financial items on these current schedules, so while this draft may seem long and detailed, it is in fact greatly paring down the existing schedule items related to financial management.

    The retention schedules drafted by the Government Records Section do provide permissions to destroy public records, as required by G.S. 121-5(b) & 132-3(a). Without these retention schedules, government employees would be required to retain all records permanently. However, these schedules should not be viewed as mandates for destruction — no one from our office will ever investigate or cite an employee for retaining records longer than is required. The granularity in this schedule provides some shorter retention periods that may ease the burden of keeping records, but if it is simpler for agencies to retain everything longer, they certainly have the discretion to do so. There are also cases in which state or federal code requires a certain retention period, which is referenced in the citation column and explains some specific record types. By no means do we expect employees to evaluate and discard records on a daily basis — instead, we suggest agencies purge their records on a routine basis, at least once a year. Having worked with subject matter experts to draft this schedule, I have every confidence that state agency employees will be able to determine which disposition instructions apply to their records.

  3. Thank you for the response. I understand that destruction is authorized, not required, by the retention schedules, and that you do not expect employees to evaluate and discard records on a daily basis. This does not really mitigate the problems that these overly-complicated retention schedules impose. To comply with these unwieldy rules, government officials have a few unenviable options: (1) decide, on a day-to-day basis, which retention schedule (among hundreds or thousands) applies to each document that they create or receive in the conduct of public business and somehow file or classify each documents accordingly so that they can be destroyed as desired in accordance with the applicable schedule ; (2) elect to keep all documents created or received for much longer than the retention schedules require, thereby simplifying classification systems but substantially increasing document and data storage costs, which are ultimately borne by the public; or (3) just go about the work that they were hired to perform and, whenever anyone points out that filing cabinets and computer discs are overflowing and the office is drowning in paper and/or digital records, go through the agonizing classification process described in number 1, above, to determine which records are subject to which retention schedules and which, based on the dates they were created and received, can be destroyed at which times.

    Note that options 1 and 3, above, are basically mirror images of one another – the only question is whether government officials want to put themselves through the incredibly time-consuming process of comparing their real-life work to an arcane publication full of categories and sub-categories that could easily run 50 or 60 pages long. The middle option, in contrast, imposes unintended and unnecessary costs on government bodies who may decide, “You know what, we will never be able to make these schedules work. Let’s just keep everything for 30 years and pay some consultant to come in every 5 years or so to tell us what we can toss.” It also merely kicks the classification can down the road a bit, unless a government office decides to keep all records permanently.

    Again, the fundamental problem is that the retention schedules are overly long, overly complicated, and not intuitive. When i suggested a “radical re-think,” I was contemplating something like a five-page retention schedule (as compared to a 50 or 60-page schedule), with just a few, easily discernible categories of records. I am quite sure that such an approach would do little to no harm and would increase understanding and buy-in on the part of government officials. Rather than consulting with experts, I suggest that your staff spend a day or two shadowing busy but ordinary government officials in a wide variety of roles (not just clerks and others whose jobs relate largely to the filing and preservation of records) and start asking yourselves which of the papers, spreadsheets, receipts, invoices, emails, etc. that cross your desk belong in which retention schedule. I am quite sure that you will discover that it becomes very difficult to get your job done when you are constantly flipping through a 50 or 60 page manual to figure out which of hundreds of types of documents is the best fit for what is in your hands. Or you may choose to just go on about your work, leaving someone else to to confront options 2 or 3 some other time…

  4. Thank you for your perspective on our scheduling process. I will not deny that good records management is difficult. But it’s a necessary part of work not only for government officials but also for those working in private industry. You may be interested in looking into some of the resources of ARMA International (http://www.arma.org/) to gain a sense of the breadth of this field. As I mentioned in my previous comment, in many cases federal and state laws and regulations necessitate a granular approach to retention schedules. We are attempting to balance the simplicity of larger categories of records with the requirements of running a business (in this case, an agency of the North Carolina government). The State Archives is also mandated to identify records that are permanently valuable to the citizens of the State of North Carolina and to ensure individual government offices are aware of the significance of the records they create and manage.

    One point to clarify – the focus groups that I’ve assembled to review and revise these schedules are experts in their subject matter, not experts in recordkeeping. We understand that it is critical to get buy-in for these schedules to be effective, so we’ve involved employees from many different ranks in state government. In addition, my colleagues and I spend much of our time visiting the offices of government employees and helping them review their records, so we are quite aware of what works and what’s challenging about records management, and those lessons are being incorporated into the drafting of these functional schedules. The manager of the Government Records Section is committed both to simplifying our retention schedules and to educating government officials in the methods for employing the schedules in their daily operations.

    Thank you again for your comments.

  5. Thank you for your further response. I am heartened to hear that the manager of the Government Records Section is committed to simplifying the retention schedules. Everyone I know who works in state and local government would surely agree.

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