Before the use of e-mail, word processors and the Internet, records management was a fairly easy exercise - certain paper documents had to be saved in certain files.
Those days are far gone.
The new Electronic Communications and Transaction Act 25 of 2002 gives electronic records, such as e-mail attachments, stored data records and even SMS messages the same legal status as paper-based documents. The Act also provides strict guidelines that govern the retention of documents in electronic format and the admissibility of such records as evidence in legal proceedings.
Most businesses are surprised to learn, generally, that more than 22 laws require certain day-to-day records to be retained for periods of between three and 15 years - these range from the obvious (retention of records in terms of the VAT Act) to the obscure (retention of records in terms of the Second Hand Goods Act). Notwithstanding the general laws, some industry specific laws (only apply to certain industries such as mining or health) detail further record retention duties. Failure to retain business records may result in fines of as high as R10 million, imprisonment and even civil liability.
To assist businesses in their record management efforts, Buys Inc Attorneys developed the following policies and guidelines:
* Records Management Check List - this check list details all the statutes that prescribe record retention duties, the applicable records and the paper/electronic retention periods.
* Electronic Evidence Guidelines - these guidelines ensure that businesses retain electronic records in such a manner that admissibility as evidence and maximum evidential weight is ensured.
* Records Management Policy and Guidelines - ensuring record management in compliance with statutes, the King II Report on Corporate Governance and international best practice.
* Data Protection Policy and Guidelines - protects record security from unauthorised access and destruction.
Buys Inc, the first law firm in South Africa to specialise in IT and Internet law, advises some of the world's biggest banks and corporations on record retention.
The partnership between Buys Inc and Siemens, combines legal and IT expertise in the records management environment.
For more information contact Buys Inc. 011 259 1199.