#FavouriteFeature: Francis Kachala from Malawi

Today’s post comes from Francis Kachala the ILN Ambassador for Malawi.  Francis assures us that his #FavouriteFeature of his workplace are the records he takes excellent care of. So for his #FavouriteFeature post, he has shared with us a little story…

Taking my Beloved Records to the Graveyard : Rest-In-Peace

Records management and archives administration are areas very much neglected, especially in the developing world, Malawi inclusive. When one speaks of a record and more or so of an archive, what comes to many a mind are obsolete materials. Talk about records disposal, then its something that is done at will, “why bother about old stuff?” they will query. A record is as good as it were if it is well managed throughout its life cycle from birth (creation) through to its death (whether it goes to hell-destruction, purgatory-retention or in heaven-permanent preservation) and consistent disposal practices provide retention and regulatory compliance and decrease corporate risk when conducted in accordance with an approved records retention schedule. European Union has an established pattern of systematic records retention and disposition that serves as evidence of its good faith in attempting to conform to the law as haphazard patterns of records disposal may appear suspicious and can suggest that unfavourable or embarrassing records were destroyed intentionally.

In line with the Administrative Retention Period (ARP) which is determined by the Common Retention List (CRL), the EU Delegation to Malawi at the end of each year undertakes a disposal exercise either by transfer to Headquarters Archives Service (HAS) in Brussels, Belgium for permanent preservation or destruction. Either way, I, in liaison with the Finance, Contracts and Audit Section (FCAS) facilitates authorised and timely transfer for permanent preservation to HAS those records that have enduring value or destruction of records that are no longer needed for ongoing business and that have no archival value. 

Today, I am carrying out destruction of records that have served their purpose (and, therefore, unnecessarily occupying much valuable space) and this action is a result of a process that went through several actors in the Delegation. Therefore, before I explain what is involved in the actual destruction, I will go through the steps that brought me this far. Firstly, (and this is a couple of weeks ago), I did a search in the Delegation Malawi Archives (Demarc) database which I developed myself using Ms Access and is used to manage physical records. (I fell in love with database management some twenty-five years ago when I had just got baptised into the library and information profession, then I was using CDS/ISIS, which I still cherish today!)

Apart from facilitating records disposal, the system also provides functionalities for transfer of records both from sections to bulkfilers in the Archive Room and from the delegation to HAS, adding, editing and deleting records, generating/printing storage box labels, providing access to records and generating reports regarding destroyed records, records transferred by sections to the Archive Room, records transferred to HAS and records requests. 

Demarc database main menu

Demarc database main menu

Through a query in the database for records that were due for destruction by 31st December 2014, the search generated a destruction list. I then sought authorisation for destruction of these records from the Head of FCAS (HoFCAS) and Document Management Officer (DMO) by initiating a workflow in the Advanced Records System (ARES) developed by EU Headquarters for document management, attaching the list and launching an e-Signatory which the two officers had to Visa and Sign respectively.

Now as I speak to you, I am equipped with permission from the two officers and heading to the Archive Room where I will physically remove the records from the bulkfilers and load them onto a trolley on the way to their final destination. Destruction will be done through shredding to ensure that there is no risk to the organization from the possible release of confidential information. The shredder itself is a heavy duty two-phase machine that takes a hundred sheets of paper at a go and in no time I am done with the destruction (RIP my dear records!). But wait a minute, the process does not end here, a record of what has been destroyed has to be created and kept. To do this I will firstly export the records destruction list into the Demarc database and document this action by completing a records destruction form which will serve as a record destruction certificate (or death certificate). I will then attach this certificate together with the destruction list, register in ARES and launch an e-Signatory for the HoFCAS and DMO to Visa and Sign respectively. The shredded paper is then given away to some organisation for recycling, an environmental friendly way of burying what were once my dear friends.

Just as I settle down in my office from the burial ceremony of my beloved records and after performing all the necessary funeral rites, am greeted by good news brought by my trustworthy and dedicated messenger, Ms Outlook Express, this time from EC-Notis, one of the ARES family members announcing the birth of yet another set of records! “Waooooooh! it’s not all about funerals, after all!” The best part is that when these children arrive they do not do so in singles, twins, triplets, quadruplets (or whatever they are called); they come in multitudes! My only prayer (as always) is that they should live a holy and spotless life on earth so that when they die, they should not perish in hell (shredder), also not only be in the purgatory (Archive Room) but eventually go to Heaven (Brussels), Amen.

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2015A and tagged , , , , .


  1. The care with which we catalog and develop our collections is only matched by the care with which we delete or discard those holdings when it is time to make space for the new “multitudes” :-). Thanks for sharing this specialized view of the lifecycle of your records, Francis. And who knew that heaven was in Brussels all this time?

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