Urgently review legal framework on public records management

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The management of state records in the country still remains a big challenge in Kenya due to lack of standardized practices and procedures in most public agencies. For that the country risks losing a big chunk of its national heritage including valuable history archives, documents and public records because the legal framework on public records management remain outdated against an onslaught by technological disruptions that have changed communication, information exchange and storage. The legal framework needs urgent review and updating and enough resources spared for updating the service.

The process of digitizing existing records within government is very expensive while the budget for such has shrunk, public institutions rarely share records with Kenya National Archives and Documentation Services while even soft developers have been slow in coming with effective and affordable software’s for archiving.

As most public agencies invest in e-communication and paperless communication propelled by the digital revolution, the issue of knowledge management and record harnessing and documentation is increasingly facing challenges, which portends troubles for institutions like the Kenya National Archives and Documentation Services, established for the preservation of public archives and records for the country. The service is expected to keep resources including books, government publications, audio visual materials, national documentary heritage and microfilms.

A number of public institutions have done away with record management structures, and those largely using electronic records have no standard guidance on recording and managing the same.

In addition to the failure to invest in helping in the preservation of the national heritage in form of public records, there is also hurdles in pursuing historical records taken away by the British relating largely to the colonial period.

The management of public records in Kenya is government by the Archives and Documentation Services Act Cap 19, 1965 (revised in 2003)- of the laws of Kenya. In addition, there are a number of several rules, regulations and circulars that have been issued addressing the effective management of the same including the Records Disposal Act Cap 14, 1962 – revised in 1972, the evidence Act 1977 revised in 1989, Government of Kenya Security Manual, 2005, ISO 15489 (2001) and more recently the right to Information Act 2013.

Records especially from public agencies are key in preserving the country’s national heritage and historical incidents, which other countries have kept well and re earning huge income in form of cultural tourism and heritage monuments. Records well kept play a role in the development of the institutional identity, contribute to institutional memory and provide historical evidence of decisions that shaped a country or community. Public institutions must invest in record keeping, while the training of record management cadres given more resources so the profession is not wiped out. While technology has disrupted the way we communicate and keep records, institutions must create ways of ensuring records are kept, files created through the registries and while institutional online platforms are vital for communicating, the same records must be documented and archived.

The Government needs to urgently review the above laws that relate to history archives, documents and public records so it in addition to adequately funding the KNADS to enable expanding its record keeping mandate, public education on the documentary heritage present to spur research and cultural tourism, enact standardized record keeping practices for public institutions and ensure that public institutions establish electronic record keeping mechanisms, and are compelled to transfer the materials to the KNADS.

Public education will ensure people value and access recently declassified records for example the Ouko Murder Inquiry report to erase propaganda on some national happenings. In addition, the Government should re activate the pursuit for records lost to other countries so that we recover them for our national heritage, while proper linkages are created within the access to information Act how the Commission for the Administration of Administration and the KNADS can work together in ensuring documented national heritage and public records can be accessed by Kenyans.

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