Recordkeeping in an outsourcing public agency

Publication Date19 March 2018
Date19 March 2018
AuthorAnn-Sofie Klareld
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information management & governance
Recordkeeping in an outsourcing
public agency
Ann-Sofie Klareld
Department of Information Systems and Technology (IST),
Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to discuss the implications of an outsourcing policy for public
recordkeeping. The research question addressedis as follows: What are the current impediments to create,
capture,organize and pluralize records producedby contractors to whom work has been outsourced?
Design/methodology/approach The paper uses four dimensions of the records continuum model
(RCM) as a structure for understandingwhat important aspects of recordkeeping that can be affectedby an
outsourcing policyand discuss the consequences for the creation of public archives. An investmentproject at
a Swedish public agency with a far-reaching outsourcing policy in the form ofa clientcontractor model is
used as a case to exemplify the problem.
Findings The ndings indicatethat the legal framework for recordkeepingneeds further development, or
clarication as to how it should be interpreted in the outsourcing context. Morecase studies are needed to
provide richer data about recordkeeping challenges arising from outsourcing and further opportunities for
theoreticalanalysis using the RCM.
Originality/value The RCM has been used in a rst attempt to understand various aspects of records
management practices and what principles need to be taken into account when making such signicant
organizationalstructural and cultural changes.
Keywords Sweden, Records management, Outsourcing, Digital archives, Recordkeeping,
Records continuum model
Paper type Research paper
This paper addresses problems related to collaborative recordkeeping in the context of a
clientcontractor relationship between a public agency and their contractors, a context
where principles and practices, as well as legal conditions, remain unclear, despite decades
of development strongly inuenced by new public management. Recordkeeping requires
ongoing attention and continuous revisions are needed, for example when new technology
and ways of organizing the business are introduced. A topic of high relevance today is the
practical and theoretical implications of digital work processes, which have been discussed
at length among scholars in the archivaland recordkeeping domains. Research projects such
as InterPARES (, AC þErm (McLeod et al.,2010), the Clever
Recordkeeping Metadata Project (
labs/cosi/projects/past-projects/crkm) and E-Ark ( have focused on
identifying and tackling the challenges of managing and preserving digital records. The
present paper turns the focus toward changesthat are occurring parallel to the development
of digital work processes, which are further increasing complexity, namely, changes in the
way public agencies organize their business. The example put forward here is the use of
Public sector outsourcing[2] has been described as one of the major policies associated
with new public management (Alonso et al., 2015), a mechanism for government service
Received3 February 2017
Revised24 August 2017
Accepted25 August 2017
RecordsManagement Journal
Vol.28 No. 1, 2018
pp. 99-114
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/RMJ-02-2017-0002
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
provision which [...] enables the government to retain control over the specication of the
service, the management of the contract and the evaluation of the service providers
performance(Jensen and Stonecash, 2005, p. 769). This can have the effect of consultants
and contractors creating records that would previously have been created by the agency.
This may become problematicbecause the public sector and the private sector aregoverned
by different legal frameworks, and the established recordkeeping regimes tend to be based
on a less complex form of organization.
This paper discusses how the four dimensions of the records continuum model (RCM)
(Upward, 2005) can be used as a structure for identifying which important aspects of
recordkeeping can be affected by an outsourcing policy, and the practical and theoretical
consequences. An investment project at a Swedish public agency with a far-reaching
outsourcing policyis used as a case to exemplify the problem.
Scope and objective
The theoretical framework developed within archival science can offer insights on how to
tackle existing challenges. The RCM was designed as [...] a dynamic and active tool, a
means to assess and understand recordkeeping and also to improve it(Cumming, 2010,
p. 48). In this article, the RCM is used to identify and discuss the recordkeeping challenges
that may face a public agency outsourcing large parts of their business using a client
contractor model. The researchquestion is:
RQ1. What are the current impediments to creating, capturing, organizing and
pluralizing recordsproduced by contractors to whom work has been outsourced?
Swedish practices for public recordkeeping are based on the principle that each agency
owns and takes full responsibility for capturingand preserving the records that originate as
a result of their business, and are needed to meet existing regulations. The legal structure
assumes that each agency keeps and controls their own records. However, current political
goals point to a future where information is shared and used by more than one actor
(Näringsdepartementet,2013). The Archives Act is a framework law, and consequently,it is
up to each public agency to implement it in practice in such a way that it suits their
respective objectives.
The Swedish concept of the archive is constructed upon the principle of transparency in
government businesses. As a general rule, citizens have a constitutional right to access
public records[3] from the point of creation or arrival at a public agency, unless the
information is condential due to ofcial secrecy, personal integrity or other specied
reasons (SFS, 1949:105). This requiressearchability, which is why ofcial records should be
registered as soon as they arrive or are created (SFS, 2009:400) and accessibility; hence,
registration should take into accountits importance for effective archiving, using materials
and methods appropriateto the needs of archival permanence (SFS, 1990:782).
There is no exact equivalent to recordin the Swedish language, the closest term is
allmän handling, translated as ofcial recordor public record(in this paper, the latter
concept is used). The Archives Act stipulates that the archives of an authority are
composed of the publicrecords created through its activities(SFS, 1990:782).Public records
are considered part of the agencys archive and of national cultural heritage. The law does
not make a distinction between current records and archival records: a public archive can
consist of both activerecords still in use by the organization, and inactiverecords that
are preserved. The present study found that this view has several similarities with the

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