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Issue Date: October 2007

The long record of the law

1 October 2007

Records discovery is an increasingly complex problem that companies face due to the nature and volume of electronic records.
Compliance is one reason behind greater records volumes retention, and is helping to drive storage market growth that, according to IDC, has seen 18 consecutive quarters of year-on-year growth. In terms of volumes of storage shipped, the market is growing at more than 50% a year, sustained year after year.
South African businesses are required to retain a great deal of information in a responsible manner, with due care given to backups, storage, protection and availability. No fewer than six acts govern organisation information, in addition to the King II report on corporate governance and the right of access to records of public bodies.
Records management programmes spell out the details of how to satisfy requirements in a cost-effective manner.
Organisations must define proper retention periods for all records from paper to electronic. They need to know where the records are. That means they know if they are onsite, offsite, in e-mail inboxes, e-mail archives, flat file storage systems, server hard drives, ERP systems, contact centre databases, fax storage lockers, document storage vendors, filing cabinets, employee desks and others.
They need to know where they are so that can find them and retrieve them quickly when needed.
Health Minister’s records
As an example, South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Misimang recently found herself in a legal wrangle with the Sunday Times. Her legal team proceeded with litigation when the paper refused to divulge sources or hand over documents that related to her shoulder operation at Cape Town’s Medi-Clinic. Part of the process saw her request records from the hospital. The hospital subsequently discovered that all records, physical and electronic, were missing.
Following further allegations it was subsequently discovered that the Minister’s court record and hospital file from her years in exile in Botswana were also missing.
In both cases expensive and time-consuming investigations were commenced, in the first instance by the South African Police Service after Medi-Clinic laid a theft charge, and in the second by several Botswana government offices.
It is absolutely critical that organisations properly manage their records, which includes halting any pending destruction when proceedings commence. By the same token, they need to ensure that records no longer needed are appropriately destroyed since information that cannot be discovered does not exist. As storage capacities increase and prices decrease companies also run the risk of storing everything – effectively turning computer systems into expensive, silicon garbage cans.
Above all, once organisations do have a firm grip of their records programmes, they need to retain it through regular updates and revisions.
Paul Mullon, information governance executive at Metrofile
Paul Mullon, information governance executive at Metrofile
For more information contact Paul Mullon, Metrofile, +27 (0)11 677 3000, paulm@metrofile.co.za


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