The impact of administrative change on record keeping in Malawi

Lihoma, Paul (2012) The impact of administrative change on record keeping in Malawi. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This research traces the development of public administration in Malawi from the pre-colonial period to the post-colonial period up to 2012, and finds that public administration in Malawi has spanned four epochs: the pre-colonial traditional African administration; the British Colonial Administration from 1891 to 1964; the post-colonial administration under the one party regime from 1964 to 1994; and the post-colonial administration under the multiparty democracy from 1994 to the present period, 2012. Of particular interest to the research are the major factors that have led to administrative change through this public administration spectrum, and how the changes have affected information and record keeping. The research seeks to establish the relationship that exists between administrative change and record keeping.
The research finds that colonialism was a change factor which transformed the pre-colonial administrative set-up and its information keeping systems, and led to the establishment of the Western bureaucracy and record keeping systems modelled on those in Britain. The enactment of the Native Authority Ordinance in 1933 established Native Authorities, which comprised local chiefs and their councillors, as part of the local government. The establishment of the Native Authorities resulted in the establishment of record keeping systems that captured and maintained official records at local levels of government throughout the country. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland as one of the remarkable administrative developments during the colonial period promoted records management programmes and led to the establishment of the National Archives in Malawi. As part of the administrative change in preparation for the transfer of power, the Treasury’s Organisation and Methods Unit reviewed and instituted new record keeping systems for government departments. Before the transfer of power, the research finds that the Colonial Administration exported some categories of records to London and ordered the destruction of certain categories of records held by District Commissioners throughout the country.
Furthermore, the research finds that soon after the transfer of power, the new administration disregarded record keeping by repealing the Records Management regulations from the Malawi Public Service Regulations. This has been detrimental to public sector record keeping. Additionally, the one party government imposed controls on access to public archives by frequently closing the Archives, imposing lengthy and difficult access procedures, limiting areas for research, and using the Archives for intelligence surveillance. This thesis finds that, towards the end of the one party regime, some sensitive records were destroyed by the outgoing regime.
After the attainment of democracy, the research finds that public archives were made widely and easily accessible, and that the public archives asumed a new meaning for ordinary people who had suffered from widespread attrocities during the one party regime. A number of governance reforms that have been undertaken have on the one hand, resulted in the promotion of records management and on the other hand, relied heavily on good record keeping for their successful implementation. Additionally, the research finds that technological developments have shaped the way in which the public sector generates and manages records today. Last, but not least, the research finds that implementation of some of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank policy reforms, such as privatisation of public enterprises, downsising, and freeze in public service employment, have impacted both positively and negatively on record keeping in Malawi. Likewise, implementation of the New Public Management policy reforms, such as commercialisation of the Staff Development Institute of Malawi, and compulsory competitive bidding in the public service, have had both positive and negative effects on record keeping.
The research concludes that the developments that have taken place during all the four administrative epochs have had an immense bearing on record keeping, and therefore a direct relationship exists between administrative change and record keeping. Administrative change is responsible for shaping record keeping over a period of time and as long as administrative change occurs, record keeping will keep on developing in response. Although this is the case, good record keeping plays an important role in facilitating effective implementation of public sector reforms that result from administrative change. Citing Malawi as a case study, this thesis concludes that administrative change and public sector reforms provide a better context for understanding the history and development of record keeping in a country, than any other context because administrative change and public sector reforms are necessitated by the interaction of socio-political, economic and technological factors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Administrative change, archives, colonialism, democracy, public sector reform, new public management, record keeping, structural adjustment policies
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Information Studies
Supervisor's Name: Moss, Prof. Michael and Tough, Mr. Alistair
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Mr. Paul Lihoma
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3573
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:08

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