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General News of Friday, 20 July 2012

Source: radioxyzonline.com

National archives in danger of losing official documents

National records at the Public Records and Archives Administration Department (PRAAD) continue to deteriorate because of poor facilities.

With the onset of the rains, signs of leakage are visible, making the keeping of the records under the required temperature difficult. Volumes of documents are, therefore, at the mercy of the weather.

The archives serve as a research centre where scores of people go in search of information daily.

Meanwhile, many believe that the archives could use its volumes of documents to generate enough funds from the researchers to maintain the building.

In January this year, facilities and conditions at PRAAD were published by graphic.com.gh, but seven months after the publication, virtually nothing has been done to save the national documents.

An insider told graphic.com.gh that nothing had changed in the wake of public concern over the state of PRAAD which holds in its belly volumes of documents of national interest.

The department has no back-up of records and in the event of a fire outbreak or any natural disaster, all the national records under its roof will be lost, perhaps for good.

Even in this age of information technology, there is not a single computer at PRAAD to facilitate electronic record-keeping.

The lack of computers is holding up plans to set up an Electronic Management Unit to spearhead electronic record management in the public sector.

The department is starved of funds, being compelled in 2011 to use more than half of its budgetary allocation of about GH¢2.9 million on personal emoluments, leaving very little for operations in all the 10 regional offices.

In spite of its neglect, PRAAD continues to play a critical role in national development and the insider recalled that recently records produced from PRAAD helped to avert a boundary dispute between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire over the Dzata Field, one of the country’s oil fields, thereby saving the nation substantial oil treasure.

The situation in the regions is even more despicable, as none of the regional offices has even a vehicle for operational duties.

Apart from Kumasi and Cape Coast, all the regional offices are temporarily located in regional co-ordinating council buildings.

With no funds available to turn PRAAD’s fortunes around, plans to transform all hard copy documents into soft copies and put them on the Internet for people living abroad to access them have been shelved, just like many other innovations that could save the archives from further decay.

The Public Records and Archives Administration Act, 1997 (Act 535) established PRAAD with the mandate to effectively and efficiently manage public records in the country.

However, lack of funding and logistics has undermined its envisaged role.**

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