|<> Archives and records management for decision makers: a RAMP study
Peter C. Mazikana
General Information Programme and UNISIST
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Paris, March 1990
This document is the photographic reproduction of the author's text
Recommended catalogue entry:
Mazikana, Peter C.
Archives and records management for decision makers: A RAMP study / prepared by Peter C. Mazikana /for the/ General Information Programme and UNISIST. - Paris, Unesco, 1990. - 79 p., 30 cm. - (PGI-90/WS/8)
I - Title
II - Unesco. General Information Programme and UNISIST
III - Records and Archives Management Programme (RAMP)
© - Unesco, 1990
2. Origins of records and archives
2.2. Records and archives
3. Records and archives in decision making
3.1. The relevance of records and archives
3.2. Usage of records and archives
3.3. The beneficial use of records and archives
3.4. Adverse consequences of not using records and archives
3.5. The decision makers view of the relevance of records and archives
3.6. Decision making
4. Records management
4.2. Filing systems
4.3. Records storage
4.4. Records storerooms
4.5. Records retirement
4.6. Archivist and records management
4.7. Records centres
4.8. Records appraisal
4.9. Access to records in records centres
5.1. Provenance and sanctity of the original order
5.4. Arrangement and description
5.6. Priority of archives
6. Planning for archives
6.1. The planning process
6.2. Planning for accommodation
6.3. Planning for staffing
6.4. Planning for equipment
6.5. Budget planning
7. Legislative authority
7.1. Archival legislation
7.2. Legislative requirements
7.3. Placement of institutions
8.1. Staffing Levels
9.1. The responsibilities of the archivists
9.2. The responsibilities of the decision makers
Appendix 1 - List of national archival institutions that responded
Appendix 2 - List of respondents to second questionnaire
Appendix 3 - Staffing levels in relation to population
The Division of the General Information Programme of UNESCO in order to better meet the needs of Member States, particularly developing countries, in the specialized areas of records management and archives administration, has developed a coordinated long-term Records and Archives Management Programme - RAMP.
The Basic elements of the RAMP programme reflect the overall themes of the General Information Programme itself. RAMP thus includes projects, studies, and other activities intended to:
- develop standards, rules, methods and other normative tools for the processing and transfer of specialized information and the creation of compatible information systems;
- enable the developing countries to set up their own data bases and have access to those now in existence throughout the world, so as to increase the exchange and flow of information through the application of modern technologies;
- promote the development of specialized regional information networks;
- contribute to the harmonious development of compatible international information services and systems;
- set up national information systems and improve the various components of these systems;
- formulate development policies and plans in this field;
- train information specialists and users and develop the national and regional potential for education and training in the information sciences, library science and archives administration.
The present study prepared under contract with the International Council on Archives examines the principles of records management and archives administration and relates them to the decision making process. It is intended to highlight those aspects of the archival field that government officials should be aware of. The study will be useful to both the decision makers as well as the archivists who must provide information to the decision makers. It includes interesting appendices, the third of which concerns staffing levels in relation to population.
Comments and suggestions regarding the study are welcomed, and should be addressed to the Division of the General Information Programme, UNESCO, 7 place de Fontenoy, F-75700 Paris. Other studies prepared under the RAMP programme may also be obtained at the same address.
<> 1. Introduction
Decision makers need records and archives when making decisions. The speed with which the decisions are made and the quality of the decisions made depends on the availability of information which enables all relevant factors and issues to be considered before a decision is made. The availability of information however is dependent on the way in which the records and archives have been organised. The organisation of the records and archives is achieved through the application of records and archives management techniques. The effective use of records and archives in decision making is therefore governed by the extent to which the records and archives have been organised. and managed and by the extent to which the decision makers are able to obtain access to and use records and archives in making decisions.
This document outlines the major principles of records management and archives administration, identifies the information needs of the decision makers, assesses the manner in which records and archives are being handled and the extent to which the needs of the decision makers are being satisfied. It draws attention to the crucial role that records and archives have in decision making, the advantages that accrue when records and archives are used in decision making and the adverse consequences that can result when decisions are made without adequate reference to records and archives.
The document should be useful to both the decision makers and the archivists. While indeed it will not dwell at length on the decision making processing it will however examine archival practice in depth in order to make the decision maker aware of the processes by which records become archives and to show the relevence of these archives to decision making. Archival practices will also be examined to find out the extent to which they are supplying a relevent service to the decision makers and it is hoped that any shortcomings that are revealed will if anything explain the present poor utilisation of archives in decision making and point the way to improvements that are necesary.
The decision making process will of course differ from institution to institution and from country to country as will archival practice. This document cannot then be expected to cover all situations and contingencies nor to have universal applicability. There is a very real realisation that there is a wide difference of practice between the Developed and Developing World. There is also recognition that the role of the archivist will be interpreted differently from country to country and from region to region. With these limitations in mind however the main conclusions of this study will have a validity for the archivists of both the Developed and Developing countries. The inadequate resources seem to afflict archivists from both areas. The conservation and reluctance to adopt new strategies and technologies seems to be a universal problem and the low extent of usage of archives in decision making seems equally shared. To this extent therefore it seems essential that archivists from both the Developed and Developing World should re examine and reappraise their practices and make certain fundamental readjustments and realignments.
This document is based primarily on information and data which was gathered through two questionnaire that were circulated in early 1989. The first questionnaire was sent to all category A members of the International Council on Archives. One hundred and fifty eight questionnaires were sent out and seventy four responses were received. As the response began trickling in however, it became clear that it would also be necessary to obtain the opinions of those who created the records and archives and who used them in making decisions.
A second questionnaire was thus sent to the National Archives of a few selected countries, namely, Australia, Botswana, Canada, Federal Republic of Germany, Kenya, Singapore, Yugoslavia and United Kingdom. These institutions were requested to distribute the questionnaire to Government Ministries and departments and to other institutions that might be of relevance and interest. The questionnaire was also sent to Government Ministries and departments in Zimbabwe. Responses were received from 12 ministries and departments in Australia, 24 in Botswana, 5 in Singapore, 4 in Yugoslavia and 10 in Zimbabwe. The response levels were obviously rather dissapointing making it difficult to draw statistically valid samples. They however have made it possible to draw some examples.
The sending of the questionnaires to the creators and users of the records and archives as well as to custodians and keepers has provided some interesting information and data. There is little doubt that both groups see records and archives as being very important. They are equally agreed that records and archives should be accorded the highest priority and recognition. This acceptance of the role and importance of archives is however clearly not matched by the provision of the requisite resources and the picture that emerges is of institutions battling with inadequate financial and material resources to gather, store' preserve and make available to users the records and archives which the users need in order to make decisions. Partly as a result of insufficient resources and partly because of the policies of the archival institutions records and archives are not playing the pivotal role in decision making that they are capable of playing.
The questionnaires that were sent out were deliberately unorthodox in their approach and in the line of questioning pursued, and this prompted an esteemed colleague to say that he could see no point in filling the questionnaire observing that "there is no chance of giving you an adequate impression of our situation - - - - - by filling in the form....... I would like to wish you success for your project. Unfortunately I have some doubts as well to the goal and to the method". Gratefully though. the colleague enclosed literature relating to his institution which enabled relevant information to be extracted.
The questionnaires however were meant to take the archivists from their traditional and habitual pursuits into perhaps new dimensions of thinking and areas of endeavour. The questionnaires aimed a' establishing the financial and material resources available to these institutions their positions and practices in relation to the management of current, semicurrent and non-current records, the extent to which they had assessed and quantified the needs of the decision makers and the extent to which they were ensuring that the decision makers had adequate access to the records and archives that they needed in decision making. The questionnaires also aimed at assessing the extent to which archival institutions. in spite of their obvious specialisation, saw themselves as no different from any other institutions in terms of their general management. It aimed at assessing the way in which archival institutions saw the need to run their institutions using modern management techniques for the procurement of goods, supplies and services, for managing materials in stock, for marketing their products and services, and for managing the human resources. The better management of archival institutions was seen as critical to the generation of the ability of the institutions to provide a relevant service to the records creators and users.
From the responses received, it seems that by and large archival institutions are operating in very much the same way that they have been operating for generations. And yet if it is a records management and archives administration service that they are offering to modern Governmental institutions, their survival and relevance lies in recognising the changes that have taken place in the record creating agencies, changes that have affected the demand and needs of the decision makers and that require consonant adjustments by those entrusted with custodianship of the records and archives. There is an obvious need for archival institutions to overhaul and harmonize their practices in order to achieve that status of relevance which the decision makers obviously expect and need.
The responses received came from all parts of the world, from Africa, Australasia, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania and from both developed and developing countries. It was most gratifying that most of the questionnaires were filled or completed by the heads or deputies of the institutions to which they had been sent. Since the first questionnaire was sent primarily to national archival institutions and to institutions operating at state, provincial and local authority level, reference to archival institutions within this document will thus refer to institutions operating at these levels. Decision makers will also be confined to those working in Governmental and public institutions especially those operating at Government Ministry or departmental level.
In analysing the responses. there will be many instances in which the responses will not tally with the number of questionnaires received. This is primarily because not all institutions responded to all questions and some of the responses could not be used for purposes of analysis and statistical collation.
<> 2. Origins of records and archives
<> 2.1. Origins
Records and archives have been in existence since mankind acquired the ability to record information in writing. The earliest keeping of records and archives can be traced to the Ancient Civilisations when records of birth, property, law, money' tax and official and private transactions began to be kept to facilitate the conduct of government business, and for education, religion and family purposes. The medium on which this information was recorded differed from society to society as well as from age to age ranging from the clay tablets of the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires of the third millennium to the wooden tablets that found their way into Greece, the papyrus scrolls of Egypt and the parchment and vellum of Medieval Europe.
The reasons why records and archives were kept were very much clear. To prove your right to the possession of a certain piece of land you needed title deeds; to determine the size of population being governed and therefore the taxes that should be collected you required records of birth and death; to enforce government laws and regulations it was necessary to keep a record of the laws, decrees and edicts. The keeping of records and archives was therefore not a luxury but a necessity on which depended one' s ability to continue to rule and to have rights and privileges. The records and archives were also preserved in order to prove the rights and privileges of those who were being governed. In Roman Egypt, for instance, every provincial capital had a central record office known as a demosia bibliotheke where officials were required to deposit certain records relating to census, tax, land and other official transactions. These record offices were open to the public who could come and inspect the records.
The growth and development of records and archives has however not been uniform throughout the world. As with most other things some societies gained certain capabilities earlier than others. In respect to records and archives those societies that developed their organisational structures earlier often developed comparative recording infrastructures to document their activities. The capability to keep records and archives was thus attained first by those societies that learnt to write and record. While these societies did not develop in isolation as is evidenced by the record keeping practices in Roman Egypt which had borrowed elements from the Roman and Asian Empires, nevertheless the nature of the records and archives ensured that to a large extent each society had its own record and archive keeping practices that were uniquely different from those of other societies.
This is not surprising for it is the essential and distinguishing nature of records and archives. Records and archives are the by-product of the activities of a particular entity. While their creation may be a deliberate and controlled activity they are however not created for their own sake in the way that someone writes a book or a story. They are the residue of certain transactions whose nature can differ so widely from governing to conducting business. manufacturing products, selling goods and managing money, materials and people. In all these activities records and archives are an essential element but not the primary reason for the undertaking of the activity. Since activities generate information, this information must be organised. and managed and it is this that has resulted in the rise and establishment of the discipline of records management and archives administration.
<> 2.2. Records and archives
The distinctions that today we make between records and archives have not always existed nor can they be said to have universal applicability and acceptability. There is a wide varies' of views as to what constitutes information, records and archives. The word "archives" has its origins in ancient Greece where as "archeion" it was used to refer to government records belonging to an office. Usage has however changed over the centuries and it is nowadays generally used to designate a building or unit within a building where archives are stored, an agency or administrative unit responsible for administering archives and to refer to information that through various processes and qualifications has been identified as constituting archives.
It is however very difficult at times to distinguish between records and archives. In the United Kingdom and in several countries that at one time or other were under British colonial domination. records is used to refer to what in such countries as the United States would be known as archives. Thus in the United Kingdom the main institution in which central government archives are kept is known as the Public Records Office. In the United States on the other hand the comparative institution is known as the National Archives and Records Administration, and this is similar to many countries that have what are known as National Archives.
The differences that exist in terminology may seem trifle and artificial but in reality they have an important bearing on the way in which custodians of records and archives and of the archival institutions themselves view their role and responsibilities towards archives. They are differences that in the 1950' s and 1960' s separated the work and thinking of Hilary Jenkinson from that of Theodore Schellenberg. In chronological, historical and geographical terms they have come to mirror the differences in practice between the traditional archives school of thinking as represented by those with long traditions of record creation and keeping and those in more recently established societies that were created only in the last four or five centuries. They are differences that have determined the definition and scope of archival work and the activities and services that archivists can be expected to perform and provide. In many ways they are central and critical to the gap that now exists between the creators and users of records and archives and the custodians.
To understand the position in which archivists and archival institutions find themselves today it is necessary to briefly discuss the way in which archival practice has developed. The record keepers of Ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome did not make the finer distinctions that today are made. As records were created mechanisms for their retention were developed and the practices of records and archives keeping took firm root and eventually spread to other parts of the world. The developments that took place in Europe set the pace of records and archival practice from the period of the Dark Ages, the Barbarian Kingdoms with their dependence on clerics, the role of the monasteries, the carrying of charters by French kings from place to place in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the development of registries, the rise of bureaucracies and the creation of archive schools at Ecole des Chartes and Marburg: all these were landmarks that set and established the broad parameters of records and archives keeping. The decisive event in the development of records and archives practices was however the French Revolution which led to the establishment of a central government archival institution, the enshrinement of the principle of the responsibility of Governments to look after archives and the right of public access to Government records.
In general, as archivists ended the nineteenth century and entered the twentieth, they had established a body of theory and practice to guide them in their activities. Their duties were broadly demarcated and understood, encompassing the acquisition, accessioning, arrangement, description and preservation of archives and the making available of these archives to scholars, researchers and others. The main preoccupation was with the records of central government and of various public institutions such as local authorities. Business archives existed and were often acquired and preserved together with the papers of individuals that were usually referred to as Historical Manuscripts but this was relatively subsidiary to the custodianship of governmental records and archives. Archival work was scholarly, calling for personnel with proven academic backgrounds and a strong sense of history. Archival work did not include involvement with records which were being created and which were in active and semi-active use. It encompassed the rendering of assistance to enable appraisal decisions to be made leading to the transfer of the archives to the archival institution. As records management gained momentum in the twentieth century and records managers began to appear on the scene theirs was seen as obviously a less noble calling which in no way could be compared with the role of archivists.
Clearly the preoccupation was with servicing the needs and requirements of the academic scholars and researchers. While the generators and creators of the records occasionally had need to consult the records and archives, this was on a very small scale. Little was it realised that if the records and archives were there to serve the needs of those who created them then their handling and management had to be related to these needs.
In this study records will be used to denote that information which is current and semi-current use while archives will refer to those records which through some appraisal mechanism have been identified as having a permanent and enduring value and therefore meriting permanent retention. It should be noted that archives are not synonymous with non-current records as the latter refers both to archives and to other records with shorter term value that will after a period of time be disposed of.
<> 3. Records and archives in decision making
<> 3.1. The relevance of records and archives
The relevance, importance, usefulness and necessity for records and archives is universally recognised and accepted. Those whose duty is it to look after records and archives believe in the mission of their work and in the immense responsibility that they have to shoulder as they stand custodian over such a unique and irreplaceable heritage. Those who create the records and archives and use them for the conduct of their business also recognise the importance of records and archives. They recognise that records and archives carry information without which it would not be possible for them to continue with their operations.
The custodians of records and archives have the responsibility to meet the needs of those who would like to use the records and archives. They get to know which records and archives are needed more than others for they are the ones who process the requests for access. The custodians feel that they have a crucial role to play in deciding which records should be retained permanently and which ones should be disposed of. To facilitate access to the records and archives they have created elaborate procedures for accessioning, arranging, describing and preserving records and archives and for granting access. To assess the rate of usage they maintain statistics showing the numbers of people who come to consult the records and archives' and of the quantities and types of materials accessed. They also usually record information relating to the reasons for needing use of the records. If one asks them about their users they are able to tabulate the categories of records used and the purposes for this but when one prods deeper one suddenly realises that all that exists are generalities without much specification.
<> 3.2. Usage of records and archives
In response to the question that asked for what purposes and records the archives were used, the following usages were sighted by the custodians of records and archives;
3.2.1. verification of facts
3.2.2. compilation of reports and studies
3.2.4. finding of precedent
3.2.5. collection of statistical data
3.2.6. policy formulation, planning and implementation
3.2.7. handling of legal claims
3.2.8. project planning and evaluation
3.2.11. protection of national interests
3.2.12. documenting of departmental histories
3.2.13. restoration of buildings
Ten institutions felt that the records and archives were used to some extent and the frequency ranged from those who felt that they were used quite frequently to others where it was really all to a very limited extent. Two of the institutions positively said that the records and archives were not used by decision makers while eight institutions were unable to respond to this question. There were others who said that while indeed the records and archives were requested by the ministries and departments they were however not made aware of the purposes for which the records were requested and issued.
<> 3.3. The beneficial use of records and archives
It was evident for the responses that there is to a large extent merely a general idea on the part of the custodians as to what records and archives are used for. Answers such as for current administration! historical purposes, decision making, or for reference purposes were therefore not surprising. This is borne out by the responses received to the question that requested for examples of the way in which records and archives had been used in demons/ratably and positively beneficial ways.
Only eleven institutions were able to give significant examples of the way records and archives had been used in a beneficial way for the following purposes:-
3.3.1. in Botswana to prove ownership of disputed lands
3.3.2. in Ireland to create a genealogical data base for use in the tourist industry
3.3.3. in the state of Maine in the United States of America to identify the relative of a person potentially needing a bone marrow transplant
3.3.4. in the province of Ontario in Canada to settle court cases in mining and timber claims and to defend the provinces position in a law suit concerning the takeover of a business
3.3.5. in Western Australia to support cases for minority groups and in court cases relating to sufferers of asbestosis.
3.3.6. in the Republic of Kiribati to prove ownership of land
3.3.7. in Canada to handle native land claims and for the assessment of redress for Japanese Canadians affected by the actions taken by Canada during World War II
3.3.8. in the Netherlands to award pensions for damages to people persecuted for political reasons during previous regimes and for reconstruction after wars and natural disasters
3.3.9. in Poland for the recultivation of agriculturally important low lands in the mouth of the Vistule River after the Second World War, for the reconstruction of a new hotel on old foundations in the city of Poznan and to render assistance during mining industry catastrophes
3.3.10. in the United States of America to compensate Japanese Americans interned during the Second World War
3.3.11. in Cape Verde for the reconstruction of the old city of Cedade Velha
3.3.12. in Kenya for the purpose of determining constituency boundaries and to determine the tribes and clans that owned the "White Highlands" before and at the time of colonisation
Most of the other institutions could only give generalised examples of how records and archives were used for historical and academic research, local history, genealogy, publication, education, pension, exhibits, promotion of historical and national consciousness and identity, biography, radio and television. Sixteen institutions were unable to respond to the question and thus to give any examples at all. As we shall see later, the inability of the custodians of records and archives to identify the particular and individual needs for their records and archives and to quantify that need has profound consequences on the decision makers ability to use these materials. The inability also to identify particular and outstanding examples of the value and usefulness of archives has implications in terms of the marketing of records and archives as necessary inputs in decision making.
<> 3.4. Adverse consequences of not using records and archives
At times if it difficult to demonstrate the positive value of a product or service, then it may be possible to drive home the message by demonstrating the disastrous consequences of the failure to use that product or service. When the respondents to the first questionnaire were asked to give examples of instances when there had been disasters which could have been prevented or avoided if records and archives had been used, 36 of the respondents were unable to answer the question in any way. Six were bold enough to declare that no disaster had occurred and yet the truth lies with those who were able to give examples and with the seven institutions which said that they had no information or were not aware of any. The latter is especially important because it is only if archivists can imperially demonstrate the adverse consequences of not using archives that they can begin to make the resource allocation breakthrough that they need.
An examination of seven respondents who gave examples of disasters provides some interesting information.
3.4.1. In Ireland, about 20 years ago some records of title relating to state property were destroyed necessitating the employment of staff to recreate the records of title.
3.4.2. In Zanzibar new research was undertaken on cloves diseases and studies done on the rehabilitation of the ports when these had already been partially done and the information was available in the archives.
3.4.3. In Indonesia floods that occur in new real estates in cities such as Jakarta could have been avoided if past records of city planning and development which are in the National Archives had been consulted.
3.4.4. In the Marshall Islands a fire burned down the government administration building destroying many valuable documents which could not be replaced.
3.4.5. In the Far East the territorial crisis between
Thailand, Laos and one of the neighbouring countries could have been averted if archives had been consulted.
3.4.6. In Malaysia the Kuala Lumpur - Seremban Highway was constructed in the 1970's without taking into account the geological unsuitability of the terrain. Major repairs have become frequent and problematic and yet this could have been avoided if geological monographs and other records in the National Archives had been consulted.
3.4.7. In Poland the disastrous effects of the severe inundation of the basin of Oder River in 1984 could have been avoided or minimised if old documentation of anti-flood installations which was available in the National Archives had been used.
The overall picture therefore is that while archivists know that records and archives are used by decision makers they generally do not know for what purposes they are used. They know that the records are requested and they then come to the conclusion which one of the colleagues succinctly put across as follows:- since "the National Archives is the only official repository for the official records of the government of .....; therefore, the records are used by decision makers".
If however we cannot determine with precision the records and archives that the decision makers are using perhaps we can obtain this information from the decision makers themselves.
<> 3.5. The decision makers view of the relevance of records and archives
Fifty five responses were received in reply to the second questionnaire which was distributed to Government Ministries and Departments to obtain information about the use of records and archives in decision making.
The decision makers by and large seemed to value archives. Asked if they felt that archival institutions merited high priority in the allocation of financial and other resources, 34 said yes and eleven said no. Asked if records and archives played a vital role in their decision making process 35 said yes and eight said no. While however the vast majority said the records and archives were important in decision making a different picture emerged when they were asked to estimate the number of times they used records and archives in different age categories for decision making.
The most important point that emerged was that archives are not very much used in decision making. If a generalisation can be made that in most countries records become archives after some 25 or 30 years, then it would seem that really very few decision makers use archives in decision making. The usage statistics were obviously very rough estimates but in those institutions where accurate figures were available, the overall picture was the same.
3.5.1. Nineteen of the respondents positively did not use records and archives between 15 and 25 years of age.
3.5.2. Fifteen of the respondents positively did not use material over 25 years of age.
3.5.3. Eleven of the respondents positively did not use material between 10 and 15 years of age.
3.5.4. In the Land Office of the Ministry of Law in
Singapore usage declined from 6000 times per year in the 2 to 5 years category and 4000 in the 5 to 10 year category to almost nothing for material older than 10 years.
3.5.5. In the Headquarters of the Ministry of Health in Singapore usage declined from 1200 times per year in the 2 to 5 years category to 240 in the 10 to 15 years category.
3.5.6. In the Ministry of Education in Botswana usage declined from 264 times per year in the 2 to 5 years category to nil in the over 25 years category.
3.5.7. In the Attorney General' s Department in Australia usage declined from 13200 times per year in the 2 to 5 years category, 1200 in the 10 to 15 years category to 100 in the over 25 years category.
3.5.8. In the Department of Social Security in Australia usage declined from 13500 times per year in the 2 to 5 years category to 30 in the 15 to 25 years category.
Asked if they used or considered using records and archives when making decisions on budgets, project and development plans and manpower planning only 32 used the records when making budget submissions, 43 for project and development planning and 31 for manpower planning.
While 25 respondents did not feel that blunders or errors had been committed, projects duplicated unnecessarily or the decision making process hampered as many as 17 felt that this had happened. Although it was found difficult to give specific examples it was pointed out that there was duplication of effort among ministries and departments, that there were cases where surveys were mounted when the data had been collected and already existed in other departments, that court cases had given verdicts at variance with early decisions or without taking cognisance of earlier decisions. Thirty nine of the respondents were making use of records centre and archives facilities and had deposited some of their records.
<> 3.6. Decision making
Before examining records management and archives concepts as they relate to decision makers it is also necessary to look at the decision making process in order to identify the information that is needed.
It is basic knowledge that there are many governmental systems in the world ranging from countries that are run by Monarchies to those that are under Prime Ministers or Executive Presidents. While one can talk of democracies, autocracies, dictatorships, capitalism, socialism and communism each of these concepts has its own variations and peculiarities that make generalisation difficult and unwise. Within these confines however it is still possible to isolate certain common features.
In virtually all cases there will be on one hand the rulers and the political figures who wield power, make the decisions and strive in one way or another to fulfil the wishes of the governed. There will also on the other hand be the bureaucracy or civil service, the relatively permanent and stable corp of workers that is there to execute the policies and wishes of the rulers. The relationship between the two groups will of course differ from country to country, region to region and from continent to continent but at the end of it all records and archives are being produced and used whatever the system.
There is generally a mechanism for the formulation of the rules, regulations and laws that must guide and govern the conduct of the citizens or the ruled. These will be formulated in fore such as Parliaments where the civil servants still play an important role in the formulation of policy, in researching and designing programmes and in providing answers to the plethora of questions that may be raised. In the Western World the role of the civil servant in decision making is best exemplified by the comedy "Yes Minister".
The politicians or rulers usually have core groupings that meet to decide on important issues. Whether these bodies are referred to as Politburo or Cabinet nevertheless the civil servants provide a back-up service by providing the information that is required in the making of decisions.
The decisions are made at different levels of the organisation It is fairly obvious that the lower down the organisation one goes the lower the level of decision that must be made and in reverse, the higher that one goes the higher the level of decision. irrespective of the level however information will be required in one way or another. The births registration clerk will need proof of date of birth and parentage in order to issue a birth certificate. A doctor in a hospital will need certain information in order to decide on the illness and prescribe requisite medication. The immigration officer will need information in order to issue a passport or grant a visa. The senior economists in the Ministry of Finance will require certain information to produce the short, medium and long term economic plans for the country. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry will require certain information in order to prepare his Minister for the Cabinet meeting or to address a certain forum. In all spheres of activity decisions are being made about the allocation of budgetary resources, the prioritisation of programmes, the granting of social benefits, the opening of new mines, the closure of unproductive ventures, the information to release to the public or the level of classification that certain information requires.
Records and archives provide the information that is required by those who make the decisions. The question only is whether these records are available to these decision makers and whether the decision makers are aware of their existence and thus make use of them when making decisions.