Ghana needs $30m to properly archive public records

Mr. Felix Ampong, Acting Director of PRAAD

The Public Records and Archives Administration Department (PRAAD) in Accra needs close to $30 million for digitization and restoration of archival repositories, checks by the Goldstreet Business have revealed.

Documents sighted states that out of the amount, about $5 million is needed to digitize and catalogue all public records at all regional offices whereas about $11 million is estimated to cater for restoration of archival repositories and infrastructure. The remaining amount will be used to carry out some equally important works by the department.

Digitization

Regarding digitization, estimated materials of 20,000 sheets will be scanned and the cost of scanning and saving is pegged at $4,000,000. An amount of $200,000 will be used to cover cost of repairing damaged materials in all ten regional offices, $100,000 to be used to cater for stock taking, whiles $150,000 will be needed to cover the cost of selecting materials to be digitized and their arrangement processes.

Restoration

With respect to restoration of the archival repository, an amount of over $10 million will be required for the establishment of new, modern and well-equipped repository whereas $500,000 will be needed to refurbish all ten regional offices.

Since the establishment of PRAAD, checks have revealed that none of their records have been digitized whereas all their operations have largely been manual.

The Acting Director of PRAAD, Mr. Felix N Ampong, recently stated that government has provided Ghc1 million to start with the digitization process.

A source at PRAAD who spoke on condition of anonymity mentioned that the money government provided which is just one-tenth of the total amount needed for digitization alone, is woefully inadequate to carry out any serious work and that it is possible the state could lose most of her vital public records after 10 years.

Additional checks by Goldstreet Business further revealed that many of Ghana’s public records at PRAAD are getting deteriorated. This is because it is largely made up of paper files which have are partly torn, moldy, dusty and partially decayed due to continuous handling and humid weather conditions.  The source emphasized it was important government takes immediate steps to provide adequate resources for digitization to kick start.

The source stated that currently the amount needed to preserve the records from rot and further damage is far cheaper than the amount to be used to conserve them, and added that it was important the state pays greater attention to the department before it reaches crisis period.

“Storage of records here is a problem. We need to operate under a controlled temperature that is favourable to the papers. Papers need to be kept under a controlled temperature to maintain their quality”, the source said.

A visit at the department’s repository revealed that the place has not seen any major refurbishment since its establishment. The faulty air-conditioners at the repository have not been replaced in the last 15 years.

“We have huge infrastructural deficit at PRAAD. Some of the records are so fragile, and we need to restore them. Some of the records are really going too bad”, the source explained.

Act of Parliament

The PRAAD was established by a Legislative Instrument (L.I 1628) in 1996 through an Act of Parliament, Act 535, 1997. The department is mandated by law for proper and effective management of all records in public institutions of government.

The department is also mandated by law to ensure that all public institutions and individuals who create and maintain public records follow good record keeping practices.

However, checks at its head office in Accra revealed the department is unable to carry out this constitutional mandate because it is largely under resourced.

Fire

Concerns have been raised by some civil society groups and individuals expressing the sorry nature of the facility.

The source noted that, since none of their items have been digitized at the moment, should any inferno strike the facility; it is possible that the state could lose all its records. The source mentioned that the department has communicated this to the Presidency and all institutions involved, but are yet to receive any major monetary facility.

“We have communicated in writing to the Presidency and Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu- Ekuful, on the challenges we are currently facing. What the government has given to us is just Ghc1 million to begin with digitization. We will take the most important files and start with them first”, the source stressed.

Records keeping and preservation have been a major factor facing the country. It can be recalled that in October, 2009, fire gutted the entire building of the Foreign Affairs Ministry which left many key historical documents burnt.

Importance

PRAAD played a crucial role during the maritime border disputes between Ghana and Ivory Coast, which saw Ghana winning. The archiver provided reliable historical documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to help the nation support its arguments in court.

Again, a number of chieftaincy disputes have been settled with reliable archival documents from PRAAD.

By Dundas Whigham