The Society for Knowledge Management-Sierra Leone (SKM-SL) with support from UNESCO is working assiduously for Parliament to Repeal the Public Archives Act 1965 to the National Records and Archives Bill 2012.
In view of this SKM-SL is planning to organize a Stakeholders Workshop at the British Council on the 20th March, with Theme: Taking Care of the Past and Looking into the Future (the repeal of the Public Archives Act 1965).
The Workshop will discuss the draft Bill on National Records and Archives 2012 which came out of a Civil Society Consultation Forum held in October 2012.
At that Consultative Forum, so many defects of the current Public Archives Act 1965 were identified amongst which were: no electronics Records Management guideline; The Current Act Centralize Records Keeping; the Advisory Committee is Weak; the Penalty for destruction of Public Archives is laughable; no guideline on the life cycle of Records Management and Recordkeeping.
According to the Program Manager Alusine Sahid Kamara, a comparative analysis has shown that Sierra Leone’s Public Archives Act 1965 is the weakest in Africa and the world at large, and thus needs to be repealed.
He added that the Ghanaian Public Records and Archives Administration Act of 1997 (ACT 535), section 24 states that a person who wilfully mutilates a public record in a public office; the National Archives; an archival repository under the control of the Director; or a place of deposit designated under section 13 of the Act, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding Le5 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.
Kamara said while in Tanzania, the Records and Archives Management Act of 2002 states that any person who removes any public record from a public office without proper authorization or who destroys any public record except as provided for in sections 9 to 13 of the Act who wilfully mutilates any public record in a public office, in the National Archives or any other archival repository under the control of the Director or in a place of deposit appointed under section 15 of this Act, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months or to both such imprisonment and fine.
The Programme Manager reiterated that in the case of Botswana, the National Archives and Records Services Acts of 2007 states that, any person who contravenes the provisions of section 14 subsection (1) which states that no person shall export from Botswana any public archives except under and in accordance with the terms of a permit issued by the Director under this section; or (2) No person shall remove- (a) any public archives from the National Archives and Records Services or a place of deposit without the written permission of the Director; or
(b) any public record selected for, but not transferred to, the National Archives and Records Services or place of deposit from its place of custody without the written permission of the Director or the person in whose custody such record is kept; or fails to comply with the conditions of any permit granted to him under this section shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.
He noted that it can be seen from the aforementioned examples, therefore, that the Sierra Leone Public Archives Act of 1965 does not provide adequate guide for the management of Current Records which are tomorrow’s archives, nor does it provide for best practices in the organisation and management of records.
Kamara stated that it is no gain saying that the Agenda for Prosperity will not succeed if we do not have proper records that documents our activities and our actions, adding that the Society for Knowledge Management-Sierra Leone with support from UNESCO have just concluded a regional tour to raise the awareness among the citizenry that as a people and as a nation, we need to move with time thus, repealing the Public Archives Act 1965 to be replaced with the National Records and Archives Bill 2012.
He said “the Archives is a priceless jewellery of a Nation, as it houses the history and culture of a Nation and if it is not taken good care of, we cannot accurately tell our history and transmit our culture to our children yet unborn. We cannot recount our successes and challenges we have overcome as a Nation and the methodical approach that were used”. The current Public Archives Act 1965 has no place in our developmental agenda.
Owing to these, he said, The Society for Knowledge Management-Sierra Leone is calling on government for the repeal of the Public Archives Act, 1965 to be replaced with the National Records and Archives Bill, 2012.
Their reasons for the repeal, he went on, are that SKM SL believes that the current Act needs to be repealled, saying , there is no Record Policy in Sierra Leone and the Public Archives Act of 1965 does not provide any guide on the management of Current Records which is tomorrow’s Archives.
Regarding penalties , Kamara stated that , section 10 sub section 3 of the 1965 Public Archives Acts, states that any person who wilfully destroys Archives, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding Two Hundred Leones. In 1971, the penalty was amended as not exceeding Fifty Leones (Public Archives Act of 1965).
By Abibatu Kamara