Implementation guideline – Principle 6: Business information is accountably destroyed or transferred

Keep business information for as long as required after which time it should be accountably destroyed or transferred.

Recommended actions

6.1 Assess business information against current records authorities to determine which information can be destroyed or transferred.

Plan to do this at regular intervals as keeping unneeded business information is costly and makes required information more difficult to find.

Records authorities provide disposal actions that specify if business information can be destroyed after a certain period of time, or transferred to the National Archives. Records authorities can cover business information created specifically by one agency. They can also cover business information generally created by most Australian Government agencies, such as information related to employment of staff or managing property.

The process of assessing business information against current records authorities to determine if it can be destroyed or transferred is known as ‘sentencing’.

Sentencing can occur at any time. You may undertake sentencing when the business information is no longer required, or on its creation based on an understanding of the content likely to be created. Sentencing business information on creation ensures that you know how long you will need to manage it.

The regular sentencing of business information enables business efficiencies and improves your agency’s understanding of the business information it holds. Destroying business information which is no longer needed reduces paper stockpiles and costs associated with storing and managing business information in any format.

Sentencing may result in the transfer of archival business information to the care of the National Archives. Business information may also be transferred between Australian Government agencies or outside of the Australian Government when there are changes in functional responsibilities. This is known as machinery of government change:

  • Usually records authorities that cover information and records transferred following administrative change, between Australian Government agencies, can be used by the gaining agency.
  • Agencies need the permission of the Archives to transfer business information when there is a transfer of ownership outside of the Australian Government.

Certain business information of short term or transitory value can be destroyed without formal permission from the Archives using a Normal Administrative Practice (NAP). Business information not covered by a current records authority or a NAP cannot be sentenced or destroyed. You should contact the National Archives to arrange for records authority coverage for this information.

Key resources

6.2 Confirm that there is no need to keep business information beyond the authorised retention period. Examples of needs to keep business information longer include:

  • anticipated requests for access

  • likely legal action

  • a significant increase in public interest in the topic

  • a disposal freeze issued by the Archives for business information on that issue or event.

Records authorities set out the minimum periods that business information should be retained. It is good practice to destroy unneeded business information in a timely manner. However, you should check that there is no requirement or business need to keep the information longer before destroying it.

The National Archives occasionally applies disposal freezes and retention notices to business information relating to prominent or controversial issues or events, or judicial proceedings. Generally these state that agencies must not destroy relevant business information until the disposal freeze or retention notice is no longer in place.

Key resources

6.3 Follow any protective security requirements for secure and complete destruction.

Destruction of business information should comply with the guidance provided under the Protective Security Policy Framework and the Information Security Manual. To compliantly destroy Australian Government business information completely you need to make it unreadable and irretrievable.

Key resources

6.4 Document the action, authority and approval for destruction or transfer.

Details of the disposal action, records authority and approval for the destruction or transfer should be documented to demonstrate accountable destruction or transfer. Options include recording these details in the system where business information was held or in separate control records. Transferring business information to the Archives is a collaborative process and agencies should contact us to discuss the transfer.

Key resources

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017