Types of Correspondence
Records Office staff must deal promptly and accurately with many different types of correspondence. Incoming correspondence will reach the Records Office in a number of different ways. Some will come through the traditional mail, some by hand, and some by telex, fax or electronic mail. There will also be differences in the way in which items are addressed. Some will be addressed to a ministry, department or agency and some to individuals either by name or by title of office. Other items may be inadequately or illegibly addressed. A smaller number of items will bear security or privacy markings, such as ‘confidential’ or ‘personal.’ Some mail may contain cheques, money or other valuables which will need to be carefully recorded and accounted for in the Records Office.
Mail which is:
- Marked personal or confidential or is addressed to an officer of the Ministry/Department by personal name, not by title or position should be left unopened and passed on to the addressee immediately.
Mail which is:
- An obvious bill, receipt, statement or invoice
- Marked return to sender in cases when the sender’s name is clearly identifiable
- Intended for a non – administrative Department
is left unopened and is placed in the appropriate dip/tray for further sorting and delivery. All offices should have at least one dip/tray identified for incoming mail into which unopened regular external mail is deposited.
Rules for handling ‘confidential’ and ‘personal’ letters and classified documents should be followed always. (See Also : Handling Classified Documents and Files). All other mail should be opened and datestamped as soon as it is received by the Records Office. During this process letters should be kept in a box file or other suitable container.
Slit open envelopes across the top. Care must be taken to ensure the contents of letters are not damaged when the envelopes are slit. Many enclosures are received loose or separated from their covering documents. Attach such enclosures to the relevant documents, taking care not to damage cheques, certificates or similar items. All enclosures must be noted on the covering documents. This is particularly important when the enclosures are valuable or are personal papers.
Certificates, deeds and other legal documents require special care. Place such documents in separate envelopes, noting the contents and the reference number of the file on the outside. Record these in a register or Valuables Book and store in a safe place. Cross‐reference on the file.
- Incoming registered mail is picked up from the Post Office by a Records Office messenger at the set time. The messenger is required to sign for registered mail.
- The registered mail is then delivered, along with regular incoming mail to the Mail Desk in the Records Office. Procedures for registered mail are similar to ordinary mail described above.
- After registered mail or unregistered mail with cash has been processed it is hand delivered to the addressee by the Mail Desk Clerk, who ensures that the addressee signs in the Valuables Book as evidence that the mail was received.
- Once all signatures have been obtained, the Valuables Book is returned to the Treasury Cashier who reconciles the signatures with the money received
Inward Correspondence Register and Mail Folder
After the mail has been opened and all enclosures accounted for, each letter or memorandum must be registered by a designated officer in the Inward Correspondence Register. All columns of the Register must be completed. The details to be entered initially are:
- Serial number (the next number in sequence)
- Date of the letter
- Date the letter was received
- From whom the letter was received
- Reference given by the writer of the letter
- Subject of the letter
The Head of the Records Office or a designated officer will decide how items are to be handled. For example:‐
- Mark routine documents with filing instructions and pass to the officer responsible for filing.
- Place letters which are not routine in mail folders for circulation. The list will vary from agency to agency, but it is important that it is as short as possible so that the mail folder is returned to the Records Office quickly.
Officers on the circulation list should attend to the documents in the mail folder promptly. They should mark those letters that they would like to deal with personally or that they would like referred to their staff by indicating to whom they are to be sent. All such directions should be initialled and dated by the officer making them. Letters may not be removed from the mail folder. All must be returned to the Records Office for filing.
Where there are more than one circulation of mail each day, correspondence delivered after a circulation has been dispatched, should be held over and included in the subsequent batch, except for any that are marked ‘urgent’ which must be delivered immediately. Records Offices receiving mail once a day only, may find it necessary to have a second circulation to deal with hand delivered mail.
When the mail folder is returned to the Records Office the documents should be placed immediately on the appropriate files. Before the files are passed to the nominated action officers, Records Office staff should note on the relevant File Transit Sheet the name or title of the action officer and the date of transit (See ‐ Section 7). The following information should be recorded in the Inward Correspondence Register:
- Name or title of the action officer to whom the file was passed, and the date the letter was filed
- Number of the file on which the letter was placed
The file must be delivered to the relevant action officers without delay.
Mail Containing Valuables
Post containing or likely to contain, cheques, bank drafts, money orders or other valuable items must be carefully safeguarded from the time it is received.
A written record of all postal remittances received each day must be prepared (in addition to the Inward Correspondence Register) and signed by the post opener. A Valuables Book or Remittance Register is used for this purpose. Records Office staff should record the following information in the Remittance Register:
- Serial number
- Date received
- Name of person sending remittance
- Details of remittance
- Cheque number/ Bank sort code (cheques only)
- Name and signature of officer opening remittance
Each sheet of the register must be serially numbered. Cash received should be counted and noted in the register as well as on the accompanying document by the post‐opener. Erasures and pencils entries must not be made in the register. A wrong entry may be cancelled only by ruling it through and correcting it with a new entry that leaves the original entry legible. All such alterations must be initialled jointly by the post‐opener and the supervising officer.
Examine all payable instruments (cheques, money orders, postal orders, bank drafts and so on) to ensure that:‐
- the amount agrees with that on the remittance advice slip or other accompanying document
- the amounts in words and figures agree
- the date and payee details are completed correctly
- the remittances are signed (excluding postal and payable orders)
If the purpose of which a remittance was sent cannot be identified, include it with the daily banking and take action to obtain the necessary information as quickly as possible.
In cases where money apparently has been omitted or differs in amount from that stated on documents received by post, a note must be made on the document jointly by the post‐opener and the supervising officer. The person who sent the remittance is then advised at once that there is an error. The cheque may be banked in the meantime.
Telegrams and Faxes
- Place telegram in folders marked ‘URGENT’ immediately after they have been registered. These folders must then be passed without delay to a senior officer for directions on how they are to be treated.
- An increasing quantity of mail is received by fax. As ‘junk’ mail is sometimes sent by fax, check that faxes received concern genuine office business. The unnecessary use of fax should be discouraged and care should be taken in deciding whether faxes need to be treated as urgent. Routine non‐urgent correspondence should not be sent by fax. The Head of the Records Office should consult the appropriate action officer if in doubt.
- Faxed material tends to fade if printed on thermal paper. Once it has been established that a fax concerns official business, the fax should be photocopied and the copy placed in the mail folder or on the appropriate file as necessary. The fax, as received, should then be placed on a file kept for original faxes.
- All incoming faxes on the fax file should be destroyed after six months as a matter of routine. If the original of the document faxed is received at a later date in the Records Office, it should also be placed on the appropriate file. Both the photocopy of the fax and the original document should be retained on the file as the photocopy may have had comments written on it by action officers.
- Increasingly more communication is being received by electronic mail on action officers’ desk computers. However, many e‐mail messages are routine or unrelated to official business and will not need to be retained once they have been read.
- Officers sending or receiving electronic mail must decide whether each item of e‐mail received or dispatched concerns official business and needs to be printed so that a copy is placed on file.
- In all cases when incoming electronic mail is printed for filing, any outgoing reply should also be printed and filed with the incoming message where possible.
- E‐mail messages should relate to one subject only to facilitate filing. If an e‐mail relates to several subjects, copies will need to be made and placed on the appropriate files. ((Rules for filing and retaining email electronically are being revised and developed continuously)
Classified Documents and Files
The circulation of ‘classified’ documents should be strictly limited to those officers who need them for their efficient performance of their duties. They should have appropriate clearances.