Records & Information Management Principles

Generally Accepted RecordKEEPING Principles (GARP)*


Records and recordkeeping are inextricably linked with any organized activity. It is only through the information an organization records in the normal course of business that it can know what it has done and effectively plan what it will do in the future. As a key resource in the operation of any organization, records must be created, organized, secured, maintained, and used in a way that effectively supports the activity of that organization, including:

  • Facilitating and sustaining day-to-day operations
  • Supporting predictive activities such as budgeting and planning
  • Assisting in answering questions about past decisions and activities
  • Demonstrating and documenting compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards

These needs can be fulfilled only if recordkeeping is an objective activity, fully insulated from individual and organizational influence or bias. To achieve this transparency, organizations must adhere to objective records and information management standards and principles, regardless of the type of organization, type of activity, or the type, format, or media of the records themselves. Without adherence to these standards and principles, organizations will have poorly run operations, legal compliance failures, and – potentially – a mask for improper or illegal activities.

The principles of recordkeeping have been well developed by those who are fully involved in records and information management. They form the basis upon which every effective records program is built and are the yardstick by which any recordkeeping program is measured. Regardless of whether an organization or its personnel are aware of them, they form the basis upon which that organization’s recordkeeping will one day be judged.

It is in the general interest of all organizations, and of society itself, to be fully aware of these principles and to manage records and information assets in accordance with them. ARMA International published these eight Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® to foster general awareness of recordkeeping standards and principles and to assist organizations in developing records systems that comply with them.

These principles are comprehensive in scope, but general in nature. They are not addressed to a specific situation, industry, country, or organization, nor are they intended to set forth a legal rule for compliance that must be strictly adhered to by every organization in every circumstance. They are intended to set forth the characteristics of an effective recordkeeping program, while allowing flexibility based upon the unique circumstances of an organization’s size, sophistication, legal environment, or resources.

The objectivity of the principles, combined with a reasonable approach to applying them, will yield sound results for any organization: a responsive, effective, and legally compliant recordkeeping system.                              

Principle of Accountability:

An organization shall assign a senior executive who will oversee a recordkeeping program and delegate program responsibility to appropriate individuals, adopt policies and procedures to guide personnel, and ensure program auditability.

Principle of Integrity:

A recordkeeping program shall be constructed so the records and information generated or managed by or for the organization have a reasonable and suitable guarantee of authenticity and reliability.

Principle of Protection:

A recordkeeping program shall be constructed to ensure a reasonable level of protection to records and information that are private, confidential, privileged, secret, or essential to business continuity.

Principle of Compliance:

A recordkeeping program shall be constructed to comply with applicable laws and other binding authorities, as well as the organization's policies.

Principle of Availability:

An organization shall maintain records in a manner that ensures timely, efficient, and accurate retrieval of needed information.

Principle of Retention:

An organization shall maintain its records and information for an appropriate time, taking into account legal, regulatory, fiscal, operational, and historical requirements.

Principle of Disposition:

An organization shall provide secure and appropriate disposition for records that are no longer required to be maintained by applicable laws and the organization's policies.

Principle of Transparency:

The processes and activities of an organization's record-keeping program shall be documented in an understandable manner and be available to all personnel and appropriate interested parties.

*To access the complete document entitled "ARMA International Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles (GARP) , please see ARMA GARP.pdf