Documents released by Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday show that his ministry is struggling with archiving messages and e-mails. Due to the high turnover of staff and the user-unfriendly computer system, there is little enthusiasm for archiving documents. “The way is there, but the will is lacking.”
The Ministry of General Affairs has been concerned for some time about the archiving of e-mails and messages, according to a document released by Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday. The piece was shared at the request of MPs Pieter Omtzigt and Caroline van der Plas (BoerBurgerBeweging). On Thursday, Rutte had to answer to the House because it had become known that he had deleted daily text messages for years.
The released document shows that the ministry has concerns about the archiving of SMS and WhatsApp messages, which must be kept under the Archives Act. We are currently working with an outdated, user-unfriendly system. A new system is on the way, which will allow “user-friendly export of message threads”.
The documents also show that it is seen as a risk that employees at the ministry do not give the archiving of messages “the attention it deserves”. That would be because there is “a paper directive without consequences”. It is advised to “keep pressing” the obligation to archive the messages on the consciousness of employees.
After the hard conclusions of the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the allowance scandal, the cabinet promised more openness. In order to implement this, the government started the Open op Order program in January of this year. Part of this was the mail and web archiving; awareness of the importance of this needs to be increased.
‘Execution of projects not supported by organization’
According to the released documents, the introduction of the new archiving poses risks, because “the execution of projects is not supported by the organization” and Open op Order could be seen as “another program on a repetitive subject”.
It is advised that “board and middle management” should give their commitment. The Well-Kept campaign is also being launched. As part of that campaign, a quiz is being organized at the Ministry of General Affairs, according to the documents.
Employees were also interviewed about the subject. “This has raised the awareness and thus the craftsmanship of all employees to a higher level.” The ministry is striving for “general adequate awareness of the importance of archiving”, for which training courses are organized and “messages are regularly posted on the intranet”.
Structural attention must be paid to archiving
Nevertheless, risks remain, the documents show. Staff turnover “takes effort” to maintain awareness and level of expertise. And because users experience the current archiving system as user-unfriendly, there is “a way but no will”. It is therefore necessary to hire extra people to keep everyone on track. In addition, according to the authors of the report, structural attention should be paid to this subject.
After Thursday’s parliamentary debate on the disappearance of text messages from Rutte, the Government Information and Heritage Inspectorate announced that it would conduct an investigation on its own initiative into the creation of archives at the Ministry of General Affairs. The inspectorate does this in response to “the information that has become known in recent days”.
At the initiative of Omtzigt, a hearing on the matter will be held shortly. He therefore invites the researchers of the Government Information and Heritage Inspectorate. “They can then come and explain how the archives at the Ministry of Rutte and other ministries are doing,” Omtzigt told NU.nl.