Premier’s office appears to break the law on document destruction.
‘I don’t know. I can’t remember. Who are you again?’
After Martyn Brown stepped off the stand at the Basi Virk trial last July I was thinking, someone should get this guy some help. Is there a dementia expert nearby?
Because Brown didn’t remember a thing he did or said over the last ten years. Not credible.
I’ve done the Chief of Staff gig for a bit. The written job description isn’t too specific and one of the things it doesn’t mention is the whole memory issue. But you’re supposed to remember things. And if you don’t, you use the odd aide memoire.
Martyn Brown doesn’t have any aide memoires. A while ago I posted a page from his calendar, obtained through FOI. Empty. No appointments. Nada. Zip. We know that’s BS. The guy had meetings up the ying-yang – do people still say ying-yang? The Premier even said so yesterday.
Brown must delete his calendar entries just like he deletes his e-mail. I bet his paper files are just as empty. He probably has an industrial strength shredder installed in this office. He scrubs it all clean, every day, it seems.
How do I know? Because a version of scrubbing by the Premier’s office is described in Rosemarie Hayes’ affidavit filed in court July 13, 2009.
According to Hayes’ affidavit all computers in the premier’s office have a special setting – a ‘no retention’ setting, meaning those computers are not backed up in the way government computers regularly are. And that means no back-up records exist.
Here’s the way it usually works. E-mails and electronic records – like Brown’s calendar – come and go. Many, regardless of their content, are deleted daily. You may recall that Ken Dobell, Deputy to the Premier from 2001 to 2005, actively counseled this. But that doesn’t mean they’re really gone.
Government e-mail accounts and other on-line records are set, by policy, to retain deleted items for 14 days after deletion and those records are backed up on tape and kept for thirteen months before being destroyed.
Unless someone changes the setting. And that’s what happened in the Premier’s office.
According to Hayes’ affidavit “there are 245 mailboxes with deleted items retention set to something other than 14 days, including 62 mailboxes under the Office of the Premier that are set with a retention of 0 days.”
Zero days. That means no records are retained if records are deleted as a matter of course – nothing will be caught by the backup system.
So? Well, there’s the optics. What is it that the Premier and his gang want to hide?
Then there’s the law. Because it appears to me that the Premier’s office is breaking law – the Document Disposal Act – that sets policies for document retention. The gist of the act and the retention schedules it mandates is that most of the records generated by the Premier’s office should be preserved not destroyed.
Here’s how government policy interprets the Document Disposal Act for Executive Offices like the Premier’s:
“Executive records are the administrative and operational records of the offices of ministers, deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, and equivalent positions. Included are records in all formats…
“All executive records will be retained for a minimum combined active and semi-active retention period of ten years from the date of file closure.
“Executive records often document the development, implementation, operation, and evaluation of government legislation, programs, and services. Such records are unique primary source documents and will be retained.”
A legally binding schedule reflecting this policy exists for the Premier’s office. Scrubbing the files violates the schedule.
It’s the Chief Information Officer’s job to investigate violations of government records policy and law. A violation in the Premier’s office suggests one big cover-up. And that should jump to the top of the investigation pile.
Martyn Brown couldn’t remember anything, because he made it his explicit policy not to be able to remember anything. Meaning, he’s got something to hide.