Policy on Appraisal of Public Records

A feature of government in the twentieth century has been the phenomenal growth in the quantity of records generated. The advent of the information age and electronic records has only accelerated this process. Deciding what records should be made, kept and for how long is an important task for public sector bodies and for government records and archives authorities.

Appraisal is the process of evaluating business activities of public offices to determine which records need to be created and captured into record-keeping systems and how long the records need to be kept, to meet business needs, the requirements of organisational accountability and community expectations. This includes determining which records should be kept as part of our nation’s collective memory and cultural heritage, that is, as national archives.

The National Archives works with public offices in the appraisal process to help ensure that the needs of people and government for records — as evidence of the business of the public sector — are met now and in the future.

Policy Statement

The National Archives is committed to ensuring that the needs of people and government for records — as evidence of the business of the public sector — are met now and in the future. The appraisal of records and the identification of archives are critical to the achievement of this purpose.

Within the framework of the National Records and Archives Act No. 22 of 2001:
1. public offices, with the assistance and guidance of the National Archives, should undertake records appraisal — to meet their business needs,   the requirements of organisational accountability and community expectations
2. records that are to be kept as archives should be identified using the appraisal objectives outlined in this document.

The National Archives is committed to ensuring that the records appraisal process is transparent and accountable and based on internationally accepted standards, namely ISO 15489.

This document establishes a policy framework for the conduct of records appraisal in the public sector and to state fundamental objectives to guide the identification of archives.

Statutory Framework

The National Records and Archives Act No. 22 of 2001 authorises the disposal of records and the identification of  records that will be retained as archives.  Public offices may not dispose of records, transfer their ownership, take or send them out of the Federation, or alter them, without the permission or approval of the National Archives.

‘Public offices’ include the National Assembly, courts and tribunals, government agencies, state owned corporations, the CFB college and the public health system.

A key aim of the Act is to encourage a planned, systematic and strategic approach to the retention and disposal of public records. This helps public offices to determine appropriate retention periods and disposal actions for records to:

  • minimise the risks of unplanned and unauthoised destruction of records
  • reduce the costs of continuing to keep records unnecessarily, and
  • identify earlier and more systematically those records that need to be retained as archives.

Purpose of Appraisal

It is not in the interest of the Government or the community to retain records for longer than they are reasonably required to support identified needs. To attempt to preserve and maintain accessibility to all public records indefinitely would be prohibitively expensive and impractical to manage. Even in the electronic environment, where data storage costs continue to fall, the full cost of cataloguing, maintenance, migration and accessibility makes it impossible to keep all public records forever. Moreover, there are certain types of records, such as those containing sensitive personal information, which the community expects will be disposed of when they are no longer required for the purpose for which they were created or for related administrative purposes and where there are no other overriding factors requiring their retention.

All records are created for an identifiable business or administrative purpose and the majority of these records can be disposed of by destruction once that purpose has been fulfilled and all legal and accountability requirements for their retention have been met. There are some types of records however, because of the purpose for which they were created, the activity they document and the information they contain, that have enduring value to the Government, to the community at large or to individuals or groups within it. These records are identified and kept as national archives.

The process of appraisal is important to ensure that the records are kept for as long as they are required — either for finite, identified periods or as national archives — and that retention and disposal decisions are properly justified and documented.

Appraisal responsibilities and roles

The National Archives does not appraise records in isolation. It works with other interested parties to ensure that essential evidence is created, identified, appropriately scheduled, and managed for as long as needed. The Director of Archives has the statutory responsibility to decide how long records must be retained and which records have archival value and must be retained permanently. In making appraisal decisions, the Director of Archives will consider the the views expressed by originating agencies and the public.

Applying best practice in records appraisal

Further guidance and training will be developed and provided to assist the implementation of this policy.

Identifying National Archives

The appraisal of public records and the identification of national archives are critical to ensuring that the needs of people and Government for records are met now and in the future.

Deciding what records should be retained as national archives is a complex decision-making process. National Archives’ approach is shaped by its statutory role in maintaining a record of the authority, functions and activities of government. The significance of government functions and activities, the interests of stakeholders and resource implications must all be evaluated as part of the appraisal process to identify the best possible records to retain as State archives.

The functions, activities and records of public offices must be appraised within the whole of government context to identify the records:

  • which must be retained as evidence of the authority of government and rights of individuals
  • which provide an adequate record of the significant decisions and actions of government and the impact of their implementation, and
  • which adds the maximum possible value to archives as a cultural resource documenting the development of the Nation.

A variety of current and potential stakeholder interests need to be considered as part of the decision-making process. The ability to predict, foresee and meet all possible future interests cannot be guaranteed and the feasibility and long-term costs of storage, preservation and accessibility must also be considered and assessed as part of the appraisal process. Resource costs involved in the provision of archival quality storage, preservation and access can be considerable. All records retained as archives must be carefully considered and justified.

Appraisal objectives for the identification of Archives

The National Archives ensures ready access to essential evidence to be found in records that document the:

  1. Rights of citizens, enabling them to establish their identities, protect their rights, and claim their entitlements.
  2. Actions of public officials, enabling them to explain past decisions, form future policy, and be accountable for consequences.
  3. National experience, providing the means for evaluating the effects of government actions on the nation and for understanding its history, science, and culture, including the man-made and natural environment.

To assist the appraisal decision-making process the following objectives have been developed to guide the identification of national archives. The objectives are applicable to records in any format and their arrangement does not reflect any order of priority.

In meeting these objectives National Archives seeks to identify and preserve as archives an adequate record to document the authority and functions of Government, its decision-making processes and the implementation and outcomes of those decisions, including the nature of their influence and effect on communities and individual lives.

Public offices will use these objectives to assist them to identify and appropriately manage records in their custody that are, or could be, archives. In consultation with National Archives they should determine appropriate arrangements for their management as archives when the records are no longer required for official purposes.

Objective 1

To identify and preserve records providing evidence of the source of authority, foundation and machinery of the Government and public sector bodies of St. Kitts and Nevis.

This includes records that document the establishment, structure and functions of the Government and public sector bodies and that establish the nature and extent of their jurisdictions, obligations, responsibilities and powers.

The types of activities and associated records likely to meet this objective include those relating to:

  • the passing and promulgation of legislation
  • formal instruments or authorities establishing the functions, jurisdictions, boundaries and operations of all levels of government within the Federation, its offices and any changes thereto
  • legal delegations to perform duties and functions of State
  • judgements or rulings determining the extent of jurisdictions and powers, and
  • agreements between governments.

Objective 2

To identify and preserve records providing evidence of the deliberations, decisions and actions of the Government and public sector bodies relating to key functions and programs and significant issues.

The significance of functions, programs, issues and associated decisions and actions will be assessed in relation to how critical they are, or were, in the administration of the Government and their influence or impact on the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The types of activities and associated records likely to meet this objective include those relating to:

  • the formulation and determination of policy across the whole of government
  • the formulation, determination and implementation of high level policy and strategic management decisions across sectors and within public sector bodies
  • the monitoring, analysis and review of policy affecting key government functions
  • major reforms of the Nation’s political and administrative structures and institutions, and
  • the development, implementation and review of legislation.

Objective 3

To identify and preserve records providing evidence of the legal status and fundamental rights and entitlements of individuals and groups essential for ongoing functions of the state.

This will include records establishing the existence of individuals and groups, their right to participate in the affairs of the State and make claim to entitlements and protection provided by the State.

The types of activities and associated records likely to meet this objective include those relating to:

  • the registration of births, deaths and marriages
  • the administration of land title and real property, and
  • the administration of probate.
  • Personal data files contain information about an individual and his or her family. Included are such records as the personnel folders of government employees and members of the armed services; the files that are accumulated in connection with determining an individual’s eligibility for benefits, such as a pension, medical care and applications for legal residence or citizenship.

Objective 4

To identify and preserve records substantially contributing to the knowledge and understanding of the society and communities of St. Kitts and Nevis.

This will include records relating to events, persons, places and social, environmental or cultural phenomena of significance to the broader community and the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis

The types of activities and associated records likely to meet this objective include those relating to:

  • the planning and management of major infrastructure or development projects and the State’s economic resources
  • the planning, management and staging of significant cultural events and celebrations
  • the identification, development and management of sites of conservation, cultural or heritage significance, and
  • the works and activities of individuals or organisations who have significantly contributed to society.

Objective 5

To identify and preserve records that contribute to the protection and well being of the community or provide substantial evidence of the condition of the state, its people and the environment and the impact of government activities on them.

This will include records documenting the impact of government activities on the environment, the community and individuals within the community or the nature of people’s interaction with government or their environment.

The types of activities and records likely to meet this objective include those relating to:

  • the conduct of foreign relations and national defense
  • significant collections and analyses of data to assist effective planning and decision-making in relation to issues affecting the community, resource management, the environment or the provision of essential services
  • representatives and appeals against the decisions and actions of government or the legislature, and
  • individual case management where it is evident that the government functions and programs had far-reaching impact or influence on the lives of individuals within the community, the environment or the development of the state and its resources.


The National Archives will reappraise records when there is compelling evidence that earlier appraisal decisions require review. In such circumstances, the National Archives will seek public offices and public involvement in the reappraisal process.

Policy review

The National Archives will review this policy as necessary in consultation with public offices, research communities, and other interested parties.