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Dysfunctional recordkeeping in Government


In the realm of government agencies and services, the importance of accurate and efficient recordkeeping cannot be overstated. However, despite the critical role it plays in preserving transparency, accountability, and historical documentation, the issue of dysfunctional recordkeeping continues to plague countless governmental bodies.

A lack of standardised processes, inadequate resources, and outdated technologies are just a few of the factors contributing to this pervasive problem. The consequences of the dysfunction reach far and wide, ranging from compromised decision-making and increased bureaucratic inefficiencies to legal liabilities and public mistrust. It is the public who are the greatest victims of the dysfunction because it is their lives that are most affect by these governmental decisions.

Below is a collection of news articles on ramifications of governments dysfunctional recordkeeping:


Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores now serving up privacy breaches

Japan’s minister for digital transformation and digital reform, Tono Karo, has apologized after a government app breached citizens’ privacy.

The app is called the “Certificate Issuing Server” and, as explained by the municipal government of Kodaira City, allows residents to print documents such as certificates that prove they’ve paid taxes.

Fujitsu Japan developed and operates the service, which preps PDF files in response to user requests and then despatches them to printers in convenience stores. The service is not universal: local governments opt in to deploy it.

Convenience stores host multifunction printers to produce the documents. As convenience stores are utterly ubiquitous across Japan, the service is a very … erm … convenient way to access government documents.

Or it would be, if the app weren’t printing the wrong documents.

Read more: Read more, 10 May, 2023

Hundreds of classified Home Affairs documents believed sent to unsecured address in ‘serious’ breach of security protocols

A Department of Home Affairs (DHA) contractor suspected of illegally sending classified documents to an unsecured location was allowed to continue working in the public service.

The man is alleged to have stripped the “classified” status from files relating to 500 departmental projects, before forwarding them to his personal email address to access at home.

A figure familiar with the “serious” breach of security protocols told the ABC the contractor removed the classification ratings from documents so his actions did not trigger an internal departmental alert system.

The contractor was then brought back for a meeting with the department’s intelligence branch head who queried him over the breach of security protocols, resulting in him agreeing not to take on further projects with the department.

The man was later hired for contract work with another large federal government department on project management, despite several former colleagues within DHA’s intelligence branch declining to provide personal references.

Read more: ABC News, 30 May, 2022

Queensland police drop hacking charges after Brisbane student claims he was arrested in case of racially charged mistaken identity

It was a warm Friday afternoon in southern Brisbane when Hussein I’lachi went to the Carina Police Station on February 17 to pay a parking ticket.

After waiting at the counter of the small suburban station for about 10 minutes, police officers filed from a back office.

“Six of them surrounded me, and then falsely accused me of being another person, [of] cheating, or hacking,” Mr I’lachi said.

Unbeknown to him, the 21-year-old university student had been thrust into the middle of a decade-old hacking scandal at one of Queensland’s most prestigious medical schools.

Police alleged that a pharmacological science student named Adam Alachi was behind the list and that his internet history proved he had downloaded keystroke capturing software known as a keylogger onto a school computer.

It was Adam Alachi’s name that appeared on the Brisbane Magistrates Court court list when Hussein I’lachi attended court on Wednesday morning to clear his name, as it has been at his three other appearances, on his bail forms, and every piece of documentation related to the case in the almost three months since his arrest.

Read more: ABC News, 10 May, 2023

Judge to oversee the financial recovery of ‘failed’ Makana Municipality

The Eastern Cape government of Premier Oscar Mabuyane will have to report to a judge every three months on progress in implementing a financial recovery plan for the Makana Municipality. This is after the Supreme Court of Appeal settled a case brought by the community to dissolve the council for its ongoing failure to deliver services. “The financial statements were not submitted to the auditor-general for auditing within two months of the end of the financial year… an adequate management, accounting and information system that accounted for assets was not in place, an effective system of internal control for assets (including an asset register) was not in place, an adequate management, accounting and information system that accounted for revenue and debtors was not in place, an effective system of internal control for debtors and revenue was not in place, there was no audit evidence that interest had been charged on all accounts in arrears, an adequate management, accounting and information system that accounted for creditors made was not in place, reasonable steps were not taken to prevent irregular expenditure, the expenditure disclosed did not reflect the full extent of the irregular expenditure, the majority of the disclosed irregular expenditure was caused by non-compliance with supply chain management regulations, no reasonable steps were taken to prevent unauthorised expenditure of R100.1-million,” the report continues.

  • Management did not design and implement daily and monthly controls to ensure the financial statements and annual performance reports were supported by accurate and complete underlying records.
  • Management further did not prepare regular, accurate and credible quarterly financial reports that would be incorporated in the financial statements. There was not an efficient records management system to ensure that financial and non-financial information was easily retrievable.

According to the auditors, the municipality has been reported for several material irregularities, including a failure to keep full and proper records that was “likely to result in substantial harm to the municipality as it contributed to the material uncertainty regarding its ability to continue operations”.

Read more: Daily Maverick, 14 March 2022 (paywall)

AFP cops a blast for poor records management

“A report into the use of statutory powers by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has given these a pass mark but uncovered serious deficiencies in the AFP’s record-keeping practices and processes. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) found that “The AFP’s poor digital record-keeping is a risk to the integrity of its operations.”

Despite a project that commenced in 2015 to migrate to an EDRMS, found that the AFP still stores the bulk of its information on shared drives, a web-based collaboration tool and the PROMIS Case Management system.”

“In March 2021, the AFP advised that some officers ‘do not like PROMIS’ and ‘do not use it to its full extent’ although ‘all investigations must have a PROMIS case which is created when the complaints or allegations are accepted.’ The ANAO’s fieldwork found that many officers preferred to use network drives to store digital records relating to warrants (such as applications, affidavits and warrants themselves).

“As a result, obtaining relevant documents to support the ANAO’s assessment of a selection of warrants was time consuming, even with the AFP’s assistance, leading to the ANAO having to revise its selection of warrants. For example, the ANAO’s selection of warrants for assessment was based on PROMIS case numbers. It became apparent that for a given case number, while some affidavits and warrants were stored in PROMIS, others were in the network drive. In one instance, 10 warrants were in PROMIS but a further 12 were in the network drive.

“Many officers choose not to use PROMIS, the AFP’s current case management system and are not obliged to do so.”

“ … there is an absence of clear, mandatory and unequivocal direction to officers as to where they must store this type of information which could potentially be required either as reference for future operational activity or required to be produced in court (or for an inquest such as the Lindt café inquiry).

“The AFP does not have the capacity to identify all digital records that it holds on any individual or entity.”

Read more: Information & Data Manager, 18 June 2021

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