Commissions of inquiry
Commissions of inquiry are required to comply with the Public Records Act 2002. This means you must create and maintain public records to document all business activities.
You should start creating and managing records from the moment the commission is established.
Commissions must also comply with Information Standard 40: Recordkeeping (IS40) and Information Standard 31: Retention and disposal of public records (IS31). These are designed to help public authorities meet their recordkeeping obligations under the Act.
Types of records created
Public records created by commissions may include:
- correspondence, emails, text messages, other electronic communications
- file notes and minutes of conversations and meetings with witnesses
- administrative matters (e.g. staff remuneration, recruitment and leave, witness payments, third party service contracts)
- diaries and notebooks of commissioners and officers assigned to the commission
- discussion papers
- exhibits tendered
- police officers’ notebooks
- delegations of authority issued by the commission
- evidentiary material (e.g. statements of interviews, investigation reports)
- Practice Directions
- rulings issued by the commission
- media releases, interviews or statements
- reports by the commission (e.g. final, interim and substantive drafts)
- documents, artefacts, photos and videos received from:
- public authorities
- local governments
- other interested parties.
Classifying records will:
- ensure they can be located when required
- contribute to the efficient running of the commission
- help identify retention periods
- determine when records can be destroyed.
You can develop a Business Classification Scheme (BCS) based on a suitable department’s recordkeeping system or by using the Commissions of Inquiry Retention and Disposal Schedule.
How long to keep records
Records that are unique to commissions of inquiry (such as exhibits tendered or a commissioner’s notebook) can be sentenced using the Commissions of Inquiry Retention and Disposal Schedule. This schedule has been approved by the State Archivist for use by all commissions of inquiry.
Records relating to general or common administrative functions of a commission, such as financial management or human resources, should be sentenced against the General Retention and Disposal Schedule.
Where possible, permanent and temporary records should be maintained in separate series. For commissions of inquiry, record classes in the relevant retention and disposal schedule can be used to identify different series.
Permanent hard copy records may be transferred to Queensland State Archives (QSA) towards the end of the commission or immediately following its conclusion.
Ongoing responsibility for the records should be finalised before the transfer.
You can destroy temporary value records once the retention period expires.
Assign responsibility for records of a finalised inquiry
When a commission is finalised, another public authority must be assigned responsibility for the commission’s records. This occurs by creating a regulation under the Public Records Act 2002.
The regulation can establish:
- a relevant public authority for ensuring the safe custody and preservation of records in the public authority’s possession
- a responsible public authority for setting restricted access periods and making decisions on access to records in QSA’s custody.
The commission will need to:
- identify a potential public authority to take responsibility–this should be done as soon as possible
- consult with the public authority about taking on responsibility
- obtain written agreement from the public authority to be the relevant and/or responsible public authority
- provide written advice confirming these details (and the written agreement) to QSA.
Records of a former commission of inquiry become records of the responsible agency once the commission ceases to exist, even if the regulation has not yet been finalised.
The commission and the relevant and responsible public authority will need to work together to ensure the records are effectively managed.