Transitory Records and Access-to-Information Requests
What are transitory records?
The Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan defines transitory records as:
Records of temporary usefulness that are needed only for a limited period of time, to complete a routine task or to prepare an ongoing document. Also, exact copies of official records made for convenience of reference. These records are not required to meet statutory obligations or to sustain administrative or operational functions. Once they have served their purpose and, in the case of convenience copies the official record has been identified, these records should be destroyed in accordance with internal disposal procedures.
What are some examples of transitory records?
As mentioned above, records of short-term value are transitory records. Similar to official records, transitory records can come in any format, including post-it notes, handwritten notes, and electronic records including emails and text messages.
Are transitory records subject to FOIP or LA FOIP requests?
Yes. Although transitory records are routinely disposed, if the public body receives an access-to-information request under FOIP or LA FOIP, then any responsive transitory records in the possession or control of the public body must not be disposed.
The receipt of a FOIP request should freeze all disposition action relating to records responsive to the request.
Public bodies should have processes in place to communicate to employees to not dispose of records that are responsive to a FOIP or LA FOIP request. It is an offense to willfully destroy records to evade an access-to-information request. The penalty can be a fine and/or imprisonment.
How long must the public body wait before disposing of the transitory records?
The public body should wait at least one year before disposing of transitory records that are responsive to an access-to-information request. This is because the public body must include the transitory records as it processes the access-to-information request. Then, once the public body responds to the Applicant, the Applicant has one year from the time the response is given to appeal to the Commissioner (subsection 7(3) of FOIP and LA FOIP). Once this time period has expired, then the public body can dispose of the transitory records.
It should be noted that public bodies may continue to destroy transitory records that are not responsive to an access-to-information request according to their records management policy.