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Risk of extensive loss of documentation in the municipal sector

The municipalities and county authorities face great challenges in connection with securing valuable documentation and making it accessible. Weaknesses in electronic and paper-based archives entail a high risk of loss of documentation of considerable legal, administrative and historical value. - Irreplaceable material has been lost and is at risk of being lost, and this weakens citizens’ due process protection. Better follow-up by the Ministry of Culture is necessary, says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.
Published 9/8/2010 12:00 PM

Document 3:13 (2009–2010) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation into the efforts to secure and make accessible the archives in the municipal sector was submitted to the Storting on 8 September 2010.

The municipal sector is responsible for many important activities, such as day care centres for children, schools, social services, child welfare services, out-of-hours emergency medical services and community nursing. The Storting has on several occasions underlined the importance of securing public documentation and making it accessible, and it has pointed out the challenges relating to electronic archives.

The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation shows that few electronic systems in the municipal sector have been designed with a view to securing valuable documentation for posterity. The situation is particularly critical for systems used to support case processing in the different fields in the sector. - These specialised systems contain central documentation relating to citizens' rights, and it is a serious matter that the documentation in these systems has only been secured for posterity in a few cases, says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.

There are also considerable weaknesses in the work of preserving paper-based archives. Around 300 municipalities have reported shortcomings relating to their archive premises. The investigation also shows that a great deal of archive material is inaccessible in municipalities and county authorities, among other things because it has not been systemised and because of a lack of services aimed at the general public.

The investigation also shows that the Ministry of Culture’s management and follow-up of the municipal archive sector has been inadequate, and that the Ministry does little to obtain information about the challenges. Very few archive inspections are carried out, and the findings from these inspections are not followed up by the Director General of the National Archives.

Few municipalities and county authorities receive guidance about what to preserve, and the regulations governing this area have been out of date for many years. There is a strong need for the Ministry to revise the regulations, and to implement immediate measures to strengthen its supervisory and advisory activities. The Ministry must also give priority to the dialogue with the Director General of the National Archives of Norway to help to solve the great challenges relating to electronic archives, Mr Kosmo concludes.

The Ministry of Culture agrees with the Office of the Auditor General that follow-up of the work of the National Archival Services of Norway in relation to the municipal sector has been inadequate, and it states that this will be remedied, among other things through various measures that will be implemented from 2011. The Ministry also confirms that it will give priority to the work of revising the regulations.

Read the summary of the Document through the link to the right.

The deferral of public access to documents prepared by or for the Office of the Auditor General in connection with Document No 3:13 (2009-2010), cf. the Act relating to the Office of the Auditor General section 18 second paragraph, is hereby set aside.

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