The Gambian President: Dr. Alhaji Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh
Celebrating Fifteen Years of Development (1994-2009)


Arch 22 In Banjul

Gambia Ports

Agricultural Products

Kombo Coastal Road



Overview of Records Management in The Gambia

1. Records Management is a critical support function to all executive, business and administrative activities. Records, and the information they contain, are one of the vital sources that an organization needs to conduct its operations. In the context of the public sector, records are fundamental to the concept of democracy: recorded information underpins the accountability of government, the protection of human rights, the rule of law, and fair and equal treatment of citizen.

2. When records systems break down, there are dramatic consequences for development. Administrators and policy makers cannot find the information they need to formulate, implement and monitor policy. The capacity of the nation to carry its functions without economic and civil service reforms is seriously impaired. The need to control records in the public sector becomes ever more critical as a result of the information explosion.

3. It is often assumed that the introduction of computerized systems will result in effective controls. However, they may introduce new difficulties. Lack of staff with IT skills and reliable power supplies can sometimes be overcome but there remain problems in reading, retrieving, decoding and accessing electronic records, as well as providing security for them and preserving them overtime. Paper records still provide the legally verifiable data source for computerized systems. For the foreseeable future, therefore, paper records will remain the primary evidence of transactions and processes.

4. The Gambia has one of the most developed records management systems in Africa. Prior to 1989, the collapse of record-keeping systems undermined all areas of public resource management and civil service operations. The built-up of useless paper in the system has caused severe access problems and had high costs in terms wasted space, staff time and wasted equipment. Countless thousands of files that had ceased to have.

any administrative, financial, legal or historical value had accumulated in registries, offices and stores. Everywhere there was disorder and chaos.

5. In the mass of unorganized papers, documents were regularly misplaced before action could be taken. Files could be found when needed and many files were created on the same subject. Financial audits could not be carried out, complete personnel information could not be located, and the success or failure of programmes and policies could not be evaluated.

6. To date, there have been some remarkable achievements in The Gambia in the period after July 22, 1994, when Commissions of Inquiries drew attention to the importance of well-kept records as evidence of state operations. The National Records Service, through its control of the record office, the records centre and the archives, made it possible to provide much more effective access to information than would not have been the case had the records management reforms not taken place.


Sorting of poorly managed semi-current records

Records listing and boxing

National Records Service (NRS)
7. The management and control of government records was given statutory authority in the National Records Service Act 1993. Under this Act, the National Record Service is responsible for managing the records of the Government of The Gambia throughout their life cycle from creation to ultimate destruction or permanent preservation as archives.

8. The Act provides for the setting up of an advisory committee with the mandate amongst others to advice the Secretary of State in charge of civil service matters on public records management policy; Advice the Director of the Service; approve Disposal Schedules for public records; and establish policies for the management of public records.

9. The committee is comprised of six members and a Secretary namely, P.S. PMO, Accountant General, Auditor General, Solicitor General & Legal Secretary, Director General NIA, and Director NRS.

10. The NRS is divided into five divisions: the Current Records; Records Center & National Archives, I.T., the Editorial/Resource center.

Objectives of the National Records Service

11. The broad objectives of any records management programme is to control costs and to streamline information and records keeping systems in different medium while at the same time improving productivity by providing records and information in a timely manner to persons requiring them.

12. This broad base objective forms the base on which the activities of the NRS are focused under responsibilities which could be summarized as:

13. The development and maintenance of records disposal schedule which authorizes retention and disposition of all government records. These schedules provide for the retention of records in accordance with legal, regulatory and operating requirements and the prompt disposition of records upon expiration of their retention periods.

14. The identification and protection of vital public records and the preservation of records having archival or historical value to the nation.

? The storage and disposition of semi active records.

? The development of uniform filing systems and;

? The development and administration of records management policies and procedures including provision for training members of the record management cadre and user personnel.


15. Information Technology Unit: An Information Technology (IT) unit was established in January 2002 as part of the Archives Directorate.

16. Since its inception the unit has succeeded in the development of a database on staff of the Records Management Cadre in seniority order. The list is subjected to regular updating. The development of a Staff Disposition List is in progress.

17. The unit also served as the venue for the successful implementation of the Slave Trade Archives Website project held in July 2002. It is also service as the centre for the production of the NRS newsletter.
18. Editorial Unit: The Editorial unit was established in October 2002. Its terms of reference include to revise NRS Training Guides and Procedures Manuals developed since 1993, and to coordinate outreach programmes.
19. Resource Centre: In a bid to address the issue of NRS documentation (including project consultant reports) scattered in different offices within the NRS, a resource centre has been established.

20. Records Management Improvement Project Phase II: The UK- Department for International Development (DFID) funded the Records Management Improvement Project Phase II, which ended in June 2002.

21. The aim of the project was to strengthen the evidence base of government by extending records management improvements and capacity to strengthen the State’s capacity to deliver health care, and justice to citizen, to manage its financial and personnel resources and to introduce improved records management systems in the administrative divisions.

22. The project was funded to the tune of 1.2 million UK pound (D21.6 million) and was implemented over a period of 36 months. It was the second phase of a successful programme for improving records management programmes in the Gambia. Project implementation was characterized by the holding of workshops to introduce reforms through new procedures and mechanisms.

23. The first phase concentrated on developing a sustainable infrastructure for records management with some work directed at administrative and personnel records.


The main outputs were:

24. Financial Records: Development and implemented of a strategy to meet the information needs of financial, accounting and audit operations. Expansion and re organization of the Accountant General’s Department record store, and the provision of storage equipment and stationery.

25. Introduction of records management systems to manage current and semi-records at 16 Departmental Accounting units across government. Production of a procedures manual for managing financial records.

26. Hospital Records: The Unified Patient record system was introduced as a mechanism for the efficient management of patient records at the three main referral hospitals across the country. To facilitate the reform measures central registration blocks were established within the hospitals. Plans are underway to further extend the system to the remaining hospitals across the country.

27. The Disease coding system being used in the RVH ICD 9 is found to be archaic. Consequently, the project introduced ICD 10, which is of international standard and recommended by the WHO. Project consultants trained hospital records staff on the new application and provided a manual. In September 2002 two coders were placed on a two-week attachment to a Hospital in UK.

28. Judicial Records: A model records system aimed at improving the management of case files was introduced at three Magistrates’ courts. In addition, data base systems for case files and record holdings of the judicial record centre were developed. A six-month IT skills course for five Registrars was sponsored by the project.

29. Under the Department of State for Justice systems have been introduced to enhance control measures in the management of information at the Curator of Interstate Estate, and at the Company’s registry at the Registrar General’s Division.

1st Judicial records management w/shop - Kanifing Magistrates’ court

30. Personnel Records: A personnel information system that would meet the needs of government and support improvement in the payroll controls was established at the PMO as part of the Personnel Management Information System (PMIS) under the Human Resource & Information System (HRIS) division.

31. To provide the linkage between the two systems, the file registration system has been altered and instead of using the block numbering system, the payroll number of individual staff is being used. The system, which is efficiently operational in the PMO, has been replicated at remaining government departments.

32. The RMIP Phase II has succeeded in procuring 12 computers with accessories to facilitate networking of the PMIS database within the PMO, and sponsored the training of PMIS users and HRIS staff in networking and database development and maintenance.
33. Capacity Building: A series of consultancy visits were fielded with a view to delivering Training the Trainers sessions aimed at targeting the pool of NRS Headquarters resource team and other senior records personnel (with teaching potentials) drawn from across the Records cadre. Training awards for to the overseas training for the former Director of NRS, and senior managers in stakeholder departments were provided.

34. Records Vocational Qualification: As part of efforts to enhance the current NRS In-Service Training course for records personnel plans are underway to develop a Gambia Records and Information Vocational Qualification (GRIVQ).

35. The RVQ will form a new approach to skills development and career progression based on merit, developed specifically for the records management field.

36. It is envisaged as a nationally recognized, competence-based, work-related qualification describing what staff do in the workplace and the standard needed for the tasks to be carried out efficiently. The course is in four stages: Elementary, Intermediate, Advance and Diploma and MA respectively. It is vital for the training programmes to be linked to an accredited academic institution in order to be valued and recognized.

37. Management of Electronic Records: Information, Communication and Technology are transforming the way governments do business. New technology is being used to achieve efficiency gains and add value to government services. Throughout the public sector, new information systems are being planned and introduced, new forms of information are being generated and used, and the Internet is providing access information and enabling communication across the globe.

38. The National Records Service, in the light of its statutory responsibility for preserving records, whatever their media has been focusing on initiatives to create awareness on the issue of Electronic Records and Information Management. In this regard the NRS in association with the International Records Management Trust, UK organized two Seminars/conference.

39. The Strategic Planning Seminar for Top-level Stakeholders on the theme ‘Underpinning Good Governance: New Strategies for Records and Information Management in The Gambia’ was held at the Atlantic Hotel from the 29-30 March 2000.

40 This seminar was followed by a Roundtable conference on strategies to manage Electronic Records in The Gambia which was held from the 18-19 September 2001 on the theme’ Making the Transition to the Electronic Age: Strategies for Managing Information in the Government of The Gambia. The main objective of the seminar/conference was to plan the best Way Forward for the better administration of electronic records in the Government.

Members of the High Table

H.E. The Vice President delivering the Opening Remarks at the conference

41. Global Forum: The World Bank and Commonwealth Secretariat sponsored global forum held at Johannesburg, South Africa from 8 - 25 September 2002 on the theme ‘Evidence- based Governance in The Electronic Age`.

42. Fifty-six national archivists and archival educators from Commonwealth countries around the world met to plan strategies to meet the challenges of the changing information environment. The forum was characterized by video conferences and electronic discussions among stakeholders and archival professionals. The Acting Director NRS represented the Gambia.
43. As a follow up to the global conference a Video conference and electronic discussions have been held for countries represented at the Johannesburg conference from January- April 2003.

44. In addition to these awareness creating initiatives, the project further sponsored the attendance of the Acting Director NRS to a 3-week course on Computerization of Records and Management of Computerized Records held at RIPA, UK July 2001. The objective of the course was to build NRS capacity in the creation and management of e-records in government.

45. To build on the foundation achieved through the RIPA course, a two –week Work attachment for Acting Director NRS and Head of the IT Unit took place from 2 to 22 July 2002.

46. Decentralization Programme. In her bid to decentralize records management to the five national administrative divisions the NRS has developed a programme, which, is significant to not only the preservation of valuable records, but also the creation of a uniform system of records management throughout Government to underpin the effective implementation of European Community, funded Local Government Decentralisation Programme.

47. As part of the phased out UK-DFID Records Management Improvement Project Phase II, the Kerewan record centre was established in May 2000, and equipped with shelving and other storage supplies. In addition, records systems of other departments within the division were also restructured. There are proposals to replicate the system in other divisions across the country provided there is adequate funding.


48. Slave Trade Archives Project: This project was carried out within the framework of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme, launched in 1992 with the aim of safeguarding the world’s fragile documentary heritage.

49. The Slave Trade Archives project seeks, through digitization of important and unique archival materials related to slave trade and held in national archives repositories, to protect the original documents, and allow diffusion of the images over the internet. It is envisaged that various West African countries will eventually benefit from the programme. So far the project has been replicated in Ghana, Senegal and The Gambia

50. Here in the Gambia the project was conducted in two phases both spearheaded by consultants provided by UNESCO. The first phase (8 -12 July 2002) a British historian and expert on the slave trade led a workshop to select pertinent and priority materials for inclusion on the website.

51. Second phase (15th to 19th July 2002) requisite technical training and planning on digitization techniques on instructions in scanning, storing and geographical treatment of documents. Additionally, Website manipulation and development, and implementation of hyperlinks and the use of File Transfer Protocol were covered in order to allow image diffusion.

52. The NRS consequently created its Slave Trade website (, composed of a number of digitized documents and images. Additionally, it has added contextual and historical pages and also a series of links giving general information about the NRS and the National Archives of The Gambia. The Websites remote access to the holdings held in the Gambia, and intellectual linking with other materials held within other national repositories.

53. A series of CD-ROMS have recently been created to form a high quality image database, thus protecting the original documents from physical handling, and ensuring the long-term preservation of their content. Distribution to local and overseas donor agencies and stakeholders has recently been effected.

54. As part of the programme the NRS benefited from two computers and accessories, a scanner, and CD-Writer.

High Table: from r to l. Yahya Sireh-Jallow former PS, PMO; Penda E. Bah, Director NRS; and Mr. Bachar, UNESCO project consultant

Dr. Florence Mahoney, Gambian writer and
veteran historian launching the website

Seminar Group Photo

55. Human Resources: a Director, who is answerable to the Permanent Secretary, Personnel Management Office, under the President, Heads The Records Management Cadre. The Staff compliment of the cadre is 200. Records personnel can be found in all government offices across the country, and at the NRS headquarters.

56. Management responsibilities of these staff are divided between the Director and departmental line managements. While the Director is responsible for operation matters and staff progression, the line departments are responsible for their welfare.

Training programmes
57. The NRS runs a 2-day Induction training course targeted at new (entrants) Records Clerks and Assistant Records Clerks as part of a series of courses offered by the NRS to expose their staff to the principles and procedures of sound record management. To date 99 Staff have benefited from the programme.

58. Subsequent to this course is the In-Service programme for the same category of staff, which is run during a period of 13 weeks, on 3 days a week basis. Government sponsors the course. To date 223 participants have benefited from the programme.

59. Overseas professional training awards are provided for a couple of records personnel at recognized institutions in UK, and Ghana.

60. Sensitization meeting for Heads of Record Offices. Regular meetings are held between the management of the NRS and departmental heads of record offices. The purpose of these meeting is to create a platform for discussing records management concerns and to map out strategies for the way forward for records management enhancement within the public sector.

Participants at the 12th NRS In-service Training Programme –YMCA Kanifing

Outreach programmes

61. Awareness initiatives were carried out to sensitize the public about the importance of good records keeping practices and the functions of the NRS as a service delivery institution. A Radio programme was carried out, followed by the launching of the department’s first quarterly newsletter ‘Hibarri NRS” in January 2003.

Guide Production

62 The National Archives, which is our national heritage, is a division within the NRS. Year 2003 saw the completion of the production of the guide to the National Archives holdings. The Guide is in three parts, dealing with the Administrative History of The Gambia, Fonts, and Series Description, and Index for archives holdings. This development has immensely contributed to efficient and effective service delivery to searchers.

Reader Services

63. The population of searchers making use of our national archives has increased dramatically. For the year 2003 alone 99 searchers visited the search room registering an increased of 100%. These searchers are comprised of academics, students, journalists, historians and genealogists at local and international levels

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