4.2. Filing systems
As mail is received and as records are generated internally within an organisation there must be a mechanism for handling them. The mail must be sorted. It must be filed so that related items and subjects are brought together in order that they can be dealt with, put away after actioning and retrieved when required. If the records are misfiled. or if related subjects are separated it becomes impossible to respond to inquiries or to make the decisions required. Outgoing correspondence as well as a great deal of documentation produced for internal circulation and usage is made in multiple copies the most common being the one plus two copies configuration in which the top copy is sent out and the two bottom copies are retained for the records. Of the latter one copy is usually put on the relevant file while the third copy is put on the what has become commonly known as the running file.
For the records to be grouped together however it implies that there is a filing system which facilitates this grouping together. To begin with the filing system must have a coherent structure that enables broad distinctions to be made in very much the same way that someone going to a library is directed from the broad to the specific i.e. he is able at the broadest to distinguish between the main subjects of science and the humanities is led to the more specific distinction between geography and history and in approaching the shelves with the history books is able to distinguish between books on Ancient history and those on Medieval or Modern history, and between the history of Africa and that of Asia. The filing systems whether they are numeric, alphabetic, alpha-numeric or geographic aim basically at leading the person to the specific file in which the subject material is to be found. In a commercial organisation the broad distinctions would separate the main activities of finance from marketing, general administration, production and human resource management. In human resource management there would then for instance be subdivisions into personnel management and training.
Once a filing system is in place, that filing system must be used to facilitate the government process. It must enable information to be rapidly processed and distributed to those who must see it. The file titles must be meaningful and accurate enabling those who must file the information as well as those who must use the information to find with ease the information that is required. Whether the filing system is manual or automated the need for accurate filing is not diminished. In Government, decision makers rely on being able to receive information timeously so that they can respond to the issues and so that decisions can be made. And yet we find that the Governmental process is often hampered because of the following problems.
4.2.1. The system for processing incoming and outgoing information becomes cumbersome and unweildly. It takes a long time before information reaches those who must have it. Officials sometimes find themselves attending meetings or responding to inquiries with only partial information available or come back from meetings only to find that the information they had needed for the meeting is now on their desk, and to all intents and purposes useless for what it was required for.
4.2.2. The filing system can become so difficult that officials spend time chasing information that cannot be located. The file structure might have become inadequate with illogical file divisions and inaccurate file titles. Everyone will remember that the information did come in or was generated but no one knows where it was subsequently filed.
4.2.3. Files required by more than one official at the same time can pose problems. If the distribution and circulation controls are weak it becomes difficult to identify who in the first place has the file and secondly to give several officials access to the same file at the same time. And yet fragmentation of the file may not be possible or may lead to an incomplete aggregation of the information required to make sound and meaningful decisions on the particular issue.
A basic requirement for sound governmental administration is therefore that all decisions must be made on the basis of utilising or consulting all known and available information. Without access to all the information the decision making process becomes impaired.
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