Monday, January 23, 2012

Good Record Keeping-the first thing to ensure Good Administration !

Ensuring good record keeping practices is the first thing any good leader or head of any organization should do to ensure a good administration or governance. Be it of any size, the central government or a small one man private business, record keeping in a systematic manner could give immense benefits to all concerned. 

India is generally considered as a poorly administered country. The first and most important reason for such a situation, in my opinion, is the lack of good record keeping practices in this country.
Indians, in general, do not give much importance to good documentation and record keeping. Most offices, whether in public or in private, do not have any one responsible to keep the files and documents properly on a long term basis. Training in good record keeping, documentation and communication practices was some thing that Indians got from the British legacy, but it was also the same thing the modern democratic Indian leaders, knowingly or unknowingly, dismantled. [Read this article published by the World Bank which stresses on this most neglected but most important aspect of  proper record keeping and management practices titled-Record management as a key support to development effectiveness!]

Those who are keen to perpetuate corruption and think of getting caught later would prefer not to have a proper record keeping system. It is quite convenient for them not to have a reliable documentation and record keeping system.

An unbiased study on the necessity and importance of record keeping would definitely reveal the importance of this in ensuring transparency and consistency in governance. It also ensures sustainable development on a long term basis.

Imagine the situation when some intelligent men of some era developing some new technique good for the society and do not keep the records of it, preventing the details of it un accessible to the successive generations. Every time the new generations would be forced learn everything from 'first principles'.

It quite likely that research could establish this fundamental truth: ' the pace of development of any country is directly proportional to the level of good record keeping practices it has'.

Archiving is the record keeping practice needed to ensure the development of culture and history. But good documentation and record keeping practices at the present is the starting point to ensure good archiving.

The development of computers happened in modern world happened because of the necessity for ensuring massive documentation and record keeping in the developing countries.

Developed countries like the USA have laws that ensure good record keeping in force for quite some years. In a country like India, such laws never existed. In 1993, the Indian government enacted a law in this regard but confined to 'public records'. The 'Indian Records Act' was enacted in the year 1993 only. Even then, the rules under this law came into existence in India only in 1997. Regrettably, most public authorities in India are quite unaware of the existence of such a law as the law in itself has no teeth to enforce it. Quite understandably, the law has been enacted for the sake of it and no one in the Indian government wants to see that the law is effectively enforced.

When we talk about good record keeping, there are a number of critical government functions which any one should be concerned with. These are:

- Land Records Management (Cadastral Systems)
- School Record Management
- Population and Demographic Records Management
- Marriage, Birth and Death Record Management
- Vehicles Registration and Record Management
- Citizenship Records Management (Unique ID, Voter ID, Passport)

There are many such records which are both important to the citizens and the governments. Then all types of records and documents created by the legislatures, courts, public institutions, public organizations, etc are required to be preserved (archived) in such a way that they are available for reference and reproduced authentically for all genuine purposes.

Now in India, the most talked after law that is termed as a land mark achievement of the common man is the ' Right to Information (RTI) Act'. But, when you do not have the information recorded in the first place in proper manner, what this right can achieve is anybody's guess! Any authorized authority can escape by giving an excuse that ' no records exist'. 

In other words, the right to information law is toothless and ineffective without the public records law is properly enforced!

I strongly feel, the good people in the government should give a serious thought to this. It is high time that India have a mandatory law that makes all institutions, both in the public and the private domains, keep their records properly as long as the institution is functioning.

The moment this law is enforced, employment opportunities in India would start rising and in turn, the Indian economy would grow in a sustainable pace benefiting all. Transparency and accountability become automatically enforced.

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