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|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|8198||2010||9 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Government Information Quarterly, Volume 27, Issue 4, October 2010, Pages 337–345
In many democratic states political rhetoric gives weight to increasing public participation in and understanding of the political process; (re)-establishing public trust in government decision making; increasing transparency, openness, and accountability of public authorities; and, ultimately, improving government decision-making on behalf of citizens. Access to the public record and freedom of information (FOI) are mechanisms which help to facilitate the accountability of public authorities. Many jurisdictions have introduced legislation related to these mechanisms, and the UK government is no exception with its enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2000. University College London (UCL) ran a research project over 12 months in 2008–2009, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. The research project examined what the impact of the UK FOIA had been on records management services in public authorities, especially local government. This article reports on some of the findings of the study. It considers how FOI compliance and records management functions are organized in local government and the role of information governance which is emerging as an umbrella for such functions. It draws some conclusions about the contributions that records management services make to the ability of local authorities to comply with the FOIA and identifies some ways in which user experience may be affected by the management of records.
The UK Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000 came into force in January 2005. The Lord Chancellor's Code of Practice on the management of records (TNA, 2002 and TNA & Ministry of Justice, 2009) published in compliance with FOIA (s 46), asserted that effective records management helps public authorities to meet their obligations under FOI. Together with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Modernising Government agenda, FOI is a significant part of the wider government agenda to increase openness, transparency, trust, and accountability in the public sector. The impact of information policy and freedom of information on public services and the effectiveness of public authorities in meeting their obligations are significant factors in the accountability of government to its citizens and of concern to all. University College London (UCL) ran a research project over 12 months in 2008–2009, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. The research project examined what the impact of the UK FOIA had been on records management services in public authorities, especially in local government. More specifically, the researchers investigated how well records management services had prepared for and coped with the first three years of FOI implementation; what effect records management services have on the ability of public authorities to comply with the FOIA; and how user experience of FOI is affected by the management of records. The research sought to discover the impact of FOI and its link with records management from the three perspectives of records managers, institutional FOI policy managers, and FOI requestors and user communities.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
If local authorities are seemingly able to cope with FOI regardless of the state of their records management services, the question of what contribution records management services actually make to the ability of public authorities to comply with the FOIA is raised. Of course, records management exists in local authorities to enable them to function generally and for their business efficiency, not specifically for FOI. FOI does, however, put a focus on the ability of the authority to retrieve information from its systems, and several interviewers commented that “life would have been a lot easier with decent records management” (case 22), that “better records management will help you find the information more quickly” (case 15) and hence “would probably save quite a bit of time and therefore money and therefore it would be more efficient” (case 16). There is one key area, however, where records management can be identified as contributing directly to the ability of authorities to comply with the FOIA. This relates to the quality of the information being currently provided (Flinn and Jones, 2009): “I doubt we answer our requests completely. My guess is that the quality of what we are providing–we might answer a request–but the quality of what we are providing on the whole is not good because of records management. If we had better records management the quality would be better because you will be sure the documents you are providing will be the latest one.” ([Interview 15] Corporate Information Manager, London Borough) This issue was raised by seven interviewees who admitted that they doubted they had fully replied to requests or had even supplied inaccurate information (cases 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 20, and 22). This was certainly evident to all of the requestors who had made requests of several councils (requestors 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 9). They noted the inconsistency in the quality of the information supplied by different authorities. The requestors also expressed concern that authorities “could give me more information than they do” (focus group), and that councils “are not sort of going that bit extra with accessing it” (requestor 4) or “just try and give you something after 20 days” (requestor 9). Variability in responses to similar FOI requests between authorities is perhaps not surprising given the myriad of ways in which FOI and records management is structured. But the key factor identified by the requestors for the difference was not that some authorities could not find the information whilst others could, but that some councils had a more open organizational culture than others. “X1: There's no real consistency. I think that is definitely true. I send on a regular basis 420 FOIs, every council in the UK. You would think that if one answers them, they should all answer them, on principle, if they give you full information. I am not talking, because there are some tiny councils and there are huge councils so you can understand that there are fairly different issues, but you'll get two enormous London councils giving you completely opposite answers to your FOI question. These are two councils which abut each other.R1: … why?X1: I think the culture, we keep coming back to this, I really do think that some places have had it hammered home that they are paid for by the public and they should be open.” ([Focus Group] Campaigner) One facet of the issue of information quality concerns version control and which version of a document to provide or extract information from. To some extent, the problem is a matter of perception with some individuals going to greater lengths than others to procure the final document: “From a FOI point of view, we've had so many enquiries where we've had to go through everybody's little notes on the agenda, scribbled all around the margins and it's just taken forever.” ([Interview 6] Records Manager, County Council) Several other cases acknowledged that finding the definitive document was problematic (cases 2, 6, 11, 14, 15, and 16), and in one case the interviewee (case 14) recalled an instance where he was supplied with what was described as the final document, only to discover that it still contained “tracked changes.” For some it is simply a matter of resources: “At the moment we are relying a lot on trust and people say “oh I wrote this, it is the only version,” which we provide and send out, and we just don't have the resources to call their bluff on it. But if there is proper version control and everything can be found then we are going to have some hard choices to make.” ([Interview 11] Data Protection and FOI officer, London Borough) For others (cases 13, 18, and 22), as long as some information could be provided to the requestor, regardless of whether it was all the information potentially available or the definitive final version of a document, that was deemed to be sufficient to comply: “Certainly with journalists they will take what they're given because they've got a copy deadline to produce some article and once they've dealt with that one, they'll move on to something else” ([Interview 10] County Archivist, County Council) However, it is clear that many requestors are changing their strategies in order to make the most of the FOIA. Quality of information may well become a greater issue in the future given that not only did all those interviewed describe how the number of FOI requests had increased significantly in 2008, but also noted that the complexity of those requests had also increased (cases 9, 11, 13, 17, 18, 20, and 22), with requestors “getting a lot smarter and smarter with their requests” (case 11), “more savvy” (case 9), “starting to dig deeper” (case 11), being “quite demanding” (case 18), “a lot more probing” (case 13), and “getting better in the way that they are phrasing some of their stuff” (case 20). The requestors themselves discussed some of the strategies they used to pursue requests, such as their willingness to challenge responses (e.g. focus group 1, requestor 1, 2, and 9), requesting assistance in clarifying what information they were seeking (requestors 8 and 9), requesting the information in a different form (requestor 8), and requesting file lists (requestor 9). There is clearly, therefore, increasing awareness amongst requestors on the most effective way to make requests: “Once you've understood the FOI Act then that actually cuts through the barriers because you can start asking penetrating questions about things” ([Requestor 4] Private requestor) And as some interviewees observed, this has the potential to cause problems: “It only needs one or two people who understand the FOI game probably to cause havoc and mayhem.” ([Interview 10] County Archivist, County Council) Although this is clearly a limited study, it has established a body of data from both users and providers of information for the under-studied sector of local authorities. We have addressed questions about the relationships between records management and FOI in local government, the organizational and structural models used to deliver these functions, and some of the implications of the choices made about the management of these functions. In addition, we now have more evidence about the preparations made by local authorities in order to cope with the introduction of the FOIA and the extent to which authorities made appropriate arrangements for functional responsibility for records management. The data showed wide variation in compliance and in the arrangements made. Yet, our data suggest that in general our case study authorities coped with the introduction of FOI in spite of the variation of resources devoted to it, and that few felt that there had been any major compliance problems. What was more difficult to study was the contribution which records management specifically made to the ability of authorities to comply with the FOIA and the extent to which the user experience of FOI is affected by the management of records. Many requests could be answered from current information sources, which might not have been accorded the status of organizational records and recorded in the records management system. However, as requestors become more sophisticated in their information seeking behavior using the FOIA, this may change.