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Special Committees - Keeping records

Special Committees of Council have obligations for record keeping under their instrument of delegation and various acts, i.e. Freedom of Information Act 1982, the Public Records Act 1973 and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. It is important that the committee is aware of its record keeping obligations, that the committee keeps records in accordance with these obligations and provides Council with copies of all relevant records.

Freedom of Information Act 1982

Under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 1982, individuals have rights to access documents and other information produced or held by Council, including those held by special committees, whatever form they might be in (electronic, paper, e-mail, fax, etc). In some case there may be exemptions to this, however, assessing these can be complex. Documents included under FOI legislation include correspondence, minutes of meetings, financial records, tenure agreements, or contracts.

Therefore, it is important that a committee keeps accurate records, both secretarial and financial. If the committee receives a request for committee documents under the Freedom of Information Act, the committee must contact the Council contact officer, as Council is legally required to acknowledge receipt of the request within three days. The Council contact officer will then work with the committee to process the request.

Managing records

All records of the committee are public records. The committee is required to store and maintain its records in a way that is consistent with general record-management practice, and compliant with the Public Records Act 1973. This involves:

• Making full and accurate records of the business of the committee, and
• Storing these records responsibly in a readily accessible and secure place.

Records of the committee must be kept secure from tampering or inadvertent access, while being easily identified, located and retrieved by those permitted to do so. All vital records of the committee (for example minutes, contracts, etc) that are essential to its function should be identified and special care taken to prevent their loss or damage.

Documents need to be kept for different periods of time under the Public Records Act 1973:

Document Retention period
Minutes Permanent record – cannot be disposed of
Reports tabled at Annual General Meeting Permanent record – cannot be disposed of
Annual Return Permanent record – cannot be disposed of
BAS and GST statements Must be kept for 7 years
Account and book keeping records Must be kept for 7 years

Once these documents have been filed with Council, Council will maintain them as a permanent record and the committee may dispose of copies. The committee can forward copies it no longer needs to Council for confidential disposal.

Other documents relating to the administrative practice of the committee are not required to be kept. These include:

• Facilitative, transitory or short-term items including appointment diaries, calendars, 'with compliments' slips, personal emails, messages and emails in personal or shared drives, emails that have been captured into a Councils records management system.
• Rough working papers and/or calculations.
• Drafts not intended for further use or reference – whether in paper or electronic form – including reports, correspondence, addresses, speeches and planning documents that have minor edits for grammar and spelling and do not contain significant or substantial changes or annotations.
• Copies of material retained for reference purposes only.
• Published material not included as part of the committees records.

More information about what documents can be disposed of is available at the National Archives of Australia website. The Council contact officer can also assist with this process if required.

Archiving of records

Copies of all of the documents kept under the Public Records Act must be forwarded to Council. These are sent to the State Government to be catalogued as part of the public record.

The committee should retain the most recent two years of information for its use in managing the facility. The committee should forward documents it no longer needs to Council for confidential disposal. This can be arranged by the Council contact officer.

Managing electronic records

Any electronic record related to committee business has the status of a public record and the records management principals described above apply. This includes electronic records developed or received by a committee member relating to committee business.

Electronic records should be stored securely, either on a separate storage drive that is locked away, or by password protecting files and folders.

Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014

The Information Privacy Act 2000 requires that committees handle any personal information in a secure and responsible manner and manage in accordance with the set of Australia Privacy Principles (APPs). With limited exemptions, all Victorian government agencies, statutory bodies and local councils must comply with the APPs.

Committees are bound by Council Information Privacy Policy, available on Council’s website.

More information about privacy can be found on the Office of Australian Information Commissioner’s website.

Financial record-keeping

Committees are urged to maintain suitable records to ensure that they make proper and complete financial reports. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) provides a resource to help with this:

Manage your payments, invoices and records (NAT 3029)

The committees’s Council contact officer can provide assistance if required.

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