The increase in both criminal and civil cases means that more records are being created within the judiciary. These records ought to be managed properly as it fulfills important functions of the judiciary by providing evidence about court cases, transactions of individuals, organisations and government. Records are a cornerstone and powerful sources of information cherished by a desire to seek justice and endeavour to unearth crime.
The effective management of records supports the entire justice process, beginning from the time of creating records when a case is opened to the finalisation of the justice process when a decision is to be made. Records should therefore be kept properly so that they can remain accessible to fulfill its important obligation of proving accountability to citizens and protect their rights. The National Archives of Namibia is charged with the responsibility of providing records and archives management services to government ministries and department as well as state owned enterprises. According to its mandate, it must ensure that public records are created, used, maintained and disposed of in an organized manner that promotes efficient and economic handling of information, however, the National Archives has not been able to fully live up to this expectations because institutions of the public service including the judiciary and courts of law did not create positions of records management and archivist at professional level, records are left in the hands of those who only completed grade 10 or grade 12 with no tertiary background, public sector institutions could have created positions for assistant archivist or archivists (diploma and or degree holder) in records and archives management who was supposed to monitor records management practices in their respective institutions and work in co-operation with the National Archives for best practices. The National Archives have been promoting records management practice but due to the existing gap of professionalism, huge volumes of records are left out unattended, piled up in office floor, ministries and departments making it difficult for officials to retrieve information needed for decision making and service delivery.
Poorly managed records promote corruption and hinder the achievement of developmental project. This article is motivated by an outcry on lost documents and evidence which could have been used to prove and bring to book the culprits on the case surrounding the GIPF’s lost N$600m as reflected in the Namibia newspaper of 22nd August, 2019. No wonder Thurston (2005) argues that: a dysfunctional and poor records management system undermines legal and judicial system since the right decisions cannot be made without full information about court cases. This means that if court and legal records are not created, managed properly and made accessible, government may not be able to make an efficient and effective decision; neither will it prove corrupt practices. A huge backlog of unresolved court cases in all lower courts in Namibia was reported during the 2013/14 financial year, the backlog of court cases totalled to 25440 and only 4765 cases were finalised by December 2014. The pace at which court cases were handled is contrary to Article 112 (1) (6) of the Namibian Constitution. The centrality of a strong judiciary mechanism relies upon well-managed records. Records management is essential established to serve society’s needs, to prove accountability and eradicate corrupt practices. Although the argument can be made, various researchers observed a weak records management system within the public service including the Judiciary system. This is evident in the backlog of unresolved court cases that had been experienced in Namibia. It is therefore relevant for government to develop a model for improving records management practices in public sector institutions by revising structures and employ records management officials and archivists at professional level who should manage registries and record offices to regulate efficient and effective flow of information for quick decision making and good service delivery particularly in the discharge of justice, government should also consider availing adequate space for managing current and semi-current records because the National Archives is supposed to keep only records with historical value, so far the regions with record centres includes Khomas, ║Kharas and Omusati. Due to lack of record centres some institutions have opted to keep their records at commercial records centres and facilities, which of course comes with a challenge of economic concerns.
*Beauty Matongo is the Head of Archives: National Archives of Namibia
2019-09-03 07:28:03 | 8 months ago