Remember that any kind of document created or received that’s connected in any way to public business, is a public record. Public records are public property, so there are lots of laws, including local, state, and federal linked to how public records must be managed. As a government employee that’s in charge of managing your agency’s public records, you’re obligated to take the greatest care of making sure records are kept organized, safe, accessible, and eventually destroyed when the time comes.
This position can be stressful because misappropriating public records, whether intentionally or on accident, can result in serious consequences, including felony charges. Records that are destroyed before their retention date or falsified in any way are considered misappropriated.
Having efficient public record management is important for a variety of reasons. Not only does good record management make your office work more efficiently, but it can save your agency time and money. Most importantly, it gives constituents a positive image of your agency and gives them confidence that their tax dollars are being used effectively.
Of course, public record management is getting tougher. As cities, counties, and state governments grow, more records are being created. As more agencies are established, new types of records are invented to keep up with the requirements of managing public records. The first step to keeping up with this growth is to switch from a paper and filing cabinet system to an electronic system, as many agencies have already done. However, to truly run your public records system efficiently, a better system needs to be put in place. This is why document management software is the perfect fit for public record management.
Never Lose a Record Again. Find It Instantly
Document management systems aren’t just an electronic replacement for paper records, it’s an improvement over the old way of managing records. eFileCabinet provides all the tools to improve record management exponentially. Intelligent organization features allow you to create a records system where records aren’t just organized efficiently, but being able to find them again is made effortless.
Every time you’re instructed to retrieve a specific record, whether due to a public-records request or another governmental process, if you don’t have an efficient way to track down the record, you could spend hours trying to locate it. Those are hours of labor spent away from more important tasks.
eFileCabinet allows you to find just about any record instantly, thanks to tools such as profiles and full-text search. Profiles are sets of metadata attached to documents that allow the system to hone in on what exactly you’re searching for. A profile can consist of identifying information such as the date the record was created, what type of record it is, a subject line, and other key terms. Profiles can either be added manually, but more importantly, they can be generated automatically with Zonal OCR. This software uses templates for standard forms to identify the key text and fill out the profile for you.
For example, a profile for a city council meeting minutes can include the document type, the date of the meeting, the names of the council members in attendance, topics from the agenda discussed, etc. You can create a uniform system for searching for documents allows you to bring up the document instantly by searching for those terms.
If a document doesn’t have a profile or you don’t know the right profile terms to search, Rubex still allows you to easily find what you’re looking for with full-text searching. Optical character recognition allows the system to scan through documents’ text to find what you’re searching for. Even if you don’t know the name of the file you’re searching for, you can use certain terms you believe are in the document. For example, if you’re searching for a letter between the mayor and the director of public works, you can try searching with both of their names, the date the letter was marked with, and terms concerning the subject of the letter like “sewage complaints.”
Perhaps you have a vague idea of where a record is in the system, but not the exact location. You can narrow down your searches by searching within containers you can define. If you’re looking a specific communication, and have a specific drawer for all public communication, you can tell the system to search there and ignore the rest of the system.
Full Control Over Retention
Retention is an issue that many public entities stress over. Different states have different public record retention laws, which are usually summarized in a retention schedule that’s publicly available.
As mentioned before, the misappropriation of public records is unacceptable and in some cases, criminal. However, while there are rarely laws requiring you to destroy records after a certain amount of time, it’s still a best practice to purge certain records after you’ve stored them after the minimum amount of time. This is important for several reasons.
One reason is to cut back on storage costs. Whether it’s physical or electronic, it costs money to store and maintain records, especially the large volumes that government entities collect. Filing cabinets take up so much space, and off-site storage facilities cost rent. Likewise, electronic records require onsite servers and require maintenance from on-site IT staff. Being able to keep the volume of records you store down to the minimum is a key way to cut back on storage costs.
The other major reason is that certain records can open the agency up to litigation from outside parties. If an existing record in your possession is requested by a court, company, or individual, even if it’s way past its retention date, you need to hand it over. You want to reduce the agency’s liability as much as you can because litigation costs a lot of taxpayer money.
A document management system like eFileCabinet makes retention simple. Governance is a feature that allows you to attach a timer to certain documents then perform an action, including purging the document from the system. For the more cautious, you can program the system to notify you when a document has reached its retention date. That way you can review it, approve it, and manually delete it from the system.
Some states require government agencies to not destroy a record after it’s reached its retention date but instead transfer it to another state entity for archival. You can attach a rule to a record to automatically transfer it to another location on that date.
These are just a handful of tools and features provided by eFileCabinet that can help you manage your public records more efficiently. To learn more about eFileCabinet and why it’s a perfect fit for your public agency, fill out the form below to view a free, personalized demo.