The Provincial Archives and Records Act, Treasury Board Directives and other Records Management Policies and Protocols forbid the destruction of government records.
However, when government employees leave their employment or are transferred from their positions, and their supervisors complete Employee Removal or Local Area Network (LAN) forms and send them to Information Technology and Shared Services (ITSS) to have access to those accounts removed for those employees, they are also allowed to order ITSS to delete their files saved on network drives, as well as their emails and attachments stored in their GroupWise email accounts.
Although it specifically states on the LAN form that: “It is the responsibility of the Supervisor to Forward, Print, or Archive GroupWise email before an account is deleted,” Supervisors are often not keeping copies of those records before ordering them destroyed which is illegal.
For example, former Premier Robert Ghiz ordered the destruction of all the electronic records of his Chief-of-Staff, Chris LeClair – both his documents saved on network drives and his emails – by simply signing a form with the “delete” option for each set of records “checked,” without copying them to ensure they were kept and properly archived as required by law.
Ghiz’s sworn affidavit in the Capital Markets Technology (CMT) lawsuit filed in court on December 3, 2018 contains claims and statements which are completely preposterous. As explained in a recent article, his statement: “I had no knowledge of the procedures followed by ITSS after a form was received,” is totally ridiculous. He signed a form that clearly instructed ITSS to “delete” (rather than “save,” which is the only other option on the form) both LeClair’s network files and emails, and yet Ghiz swears that he “had no knowledge of the procedures followed by ITSS after a form was received”?
The Director of ITSS told members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts that his staff would not have deleted the files if they had realized Ghiz had not copied the documents, but since he told them to delete them, they assumed he had.
The Auditor General reported that other employees involved in e-gaming also had all their files “deleted” in this same way, adding that although her investigation into e-gaming didn’t explore the matter further, she suspected that other employees may have also had their records deleted. My own research has come to the same conclusion.
Over the past several weeks, I have received responses from senior officials in a number of government departments to several Access to Information requests stating that “no records were found responsive to your request.” I know for a fact that records did exist at one time, and those records should have been saved and protected as per record management laws and policy.
I’ll be making information on these disturbing incidents public in coming weeks.
The practice of allowing senior government officials to instruct ITSS technicians to delete employee records without first ensuring they are copied and protected, as per the requirements of the Archives and Records Act, is a recipe for corrupt behaviour, and has been a serious problem within government.
Despite the fact that the Archives and Records Act was recently amended to include a penalty of up to $10,000 for the destruction of government records, following the public revelations surrounding the destruction of e-gaming records – and notwithstanding the fact that the FOIPP Act has always had that same $10,000 maximum penalty for the destruction of government records – as far as I know, no one has ever been charged for the destruction of government records.
It makes no sense that the person generating and/or housing government documents that offer a detailed record of what that individual – or persons under the authority of that individual – did or didn’t do in his or her position, can then unilaterally decide to order those records destroyed.
The records management system is set up within government in such a way that the administration of electronic file storage is not within those senior government official’s control, yet the system nonetheless allows those individuals to “order” the ITSS staff (who have both the technical expertise and responsibility for managing those computer systems) to delete files that should not be deleted.
ITSS dutifully follows those instructions, assuming that the files were first copied and stored, but it’s long past the time for us to be relying on an “honour system,” given the fact that the law has been repeatedly broken without consequence.
As Premier, I would forbid the practice of government supervisors ordering the destruction of government electronic records. I would shift the responsibility for copying and protecting those records from Departmental Supervisors to ITSS.
ITSS staff with no personal connection to the records – and no motivation or reason to destroy them – would work in conjunction with staff from the Provincial Archives and Records Office, along with the designated Record Management Liaison Officers within departments, to ensure that all records that should be protected and archived are indeed kept safe from those that would rather have them disappear to hide irresponsible and/or corrupt behaviour, as happened with e-gaming.