Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada Quarterly Financial Report For the quarter ended September 30, 2013

Statement outlining results, risks and significant changes in operations, personnel and program

Introduction

The Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada (OIC) prepared this quarterly report under section 65.1 of the Financial Administration Act and in the form and manner prescribed by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. This report should be read in conjunction with the Main Estimates. It has not been subject to an external audit or review.

The OIC conducts efficient, fair and confidential investigations into complaints about federal institutions’ handling of access to information requests. The goal of these investigations is to maximize compliance with the Access to Information Act while fostering disclosure of public sector information. The Commissioner uses the full range of tools, activities and powers at her disposal, from mediation to persuasion and litigation, as required.

The OIC also supports the Commissioner in her advisory role to Parliament and parliamentary committees on all access to information matters. In delivering its mandate, the OIC promotes information rights and advocates a pro-disclosure culture to ensure government transparency, accountability and citizen engagement.

Further information on the OIC’s mandate, responsibilities and program activities can be found in the OIC’s 2013–2014 Report on Plans and Priorities and Strategic Plan.

Basis of Presentation

This quarterly report was prepared on an expenditure basis. The accompanying Statement of Authorities includes the OIC's spending authorities granted by Parliament and those used by the OIC, consistent with the Main Estimates for 2013–2014. The authority of Parliament is required before the Government can spend moneys. Organizations receive annually approved expenditure limits through appropriation acts or through legislation in the form of statutory spending authority for specific purposes. In light of this, this report was prepared using a special purpose financial reporting framework designed to meet financial information needs related to the use of spending authorities.

The OIC uses the full accrual method of accounting to prepare and present the annual financial statements that are part of the departmental performance reporting process. However, the spending authorities voted by Parliament remain on an expenditure basis.

Highlights of fiscal quarter and year-to-date results

The Statement of Authorities below shows that the OIC spent approximately 18% of its authorities in the second quarter of 2013–2014. Because personnel expenses represent 63% of planned expenditures, the spending is spread out equally over the year. This statement also indicates an increase in the Total Available for Use of $2.4 million. This is primarily attributable to the receipt of a one time loan of $2.6 million to pay for the cost of the OIC’s relocation this fiscal year. This loan will be repaid over 15 years.

As Table 1 indicates, the OIC’s total budgetary expenditures decreased by $140,000 (5.2%) in the second quarter of 2013−2014, compared to the same period in 2012−2013. However, there were significant variances within elements of planned expenditures, as follows:

  • The decrease of $255,000 in Personnel expenditures is mainly due to less regular time paid since there were more vacant positions, offset by higher part time paid and higher severance pay paid in 2013-14 than in 2012-13.
  • The increase of $121,000 in Professional and Special Services is mostly due to additional legal fees and temporary help services paid in Q2 of 2013-14, offset by lower consultant fees.

Risks and uncertainties

A well-functioning access system is predicated on there being up-to-date legislation, sound administration and robust oversight. In the absence of this foundation, Canadians’ right to access government information is jeopardized.

In the last four years, the OIC has significantly improved its performance. The inventory of complaints has been reduced by more than 28%; 68% of the administrative complaints are being closed in 90 days, and 66% of priority and early resolution files are being closed within six months. However, in the second quarter of the new fiscal year, there was a 38% increase in complaints. With the current staff complement, the OIC faces significant challenges trying to keep up with this volume of work. For example, there is a roughly seven-month gap between when complaints are registered and when they are assigned to investigators. In order to maintain recent performance levels, the OIC requires a significant influx of resources, such that files can be assigned immediately upon receipt.

The growing volume of work is compounding the challenges we, ourselves, face, due to recent budgetary measures .The multi-year operating freeze and absorption of increase in salary and wages established by collective agreements under Budget 2010 and the significant and successive cuts under Budget 2012 has impacted the  OIC’s financial resources significantly resulting  in the program being at serious risk. For an organization that was already operating with little budgetary flexibility (the year-end lapse of funds has been less than 5% for the past four years), these Budget Announcements has diminished any financial manoeuvrability the organization had.

Moreover, the OIC is also facing financial uncertainty due to the PWGSC-mandated relocation of its offices in 2013–2014. In addition to the one-time costs associated with the move itself (the OIC will pay back a loan to cover these costs over 15 years), the relocation will impose new and ongoing incremental costs. Even with the loan arrangement, the financial impact of the move will add to the stress and financial pressure on the OIC.

In combination, these factors have a direct impact on the OIC’s ability to safeguard requestors’ rights under the Access to Information Act.

Significant changes in operations, personnel and program

There have been no significant changes in operations, personnel or program in the second quarter of 2013–2014.

Budget 2012 implementation

The OIC is vulnerable to unexpected spikes in workload, such as an influx of complaints or unexpected court cases, triggered by events outside of its control. The OIC does not have flexibility within its funding envelope to respond to increases in its workload or any other unexpected situation. With the Budget 2012 cut of $543,000 coupled with the additional pressure of loan repayments and new incremental costs, there will potentially be repercussions for the OIC’s ability to carry out its mandate and progress toward its long-term vision.

Access is one of the tools that make citizen engagement in government and the public policy process possible. When the system is at risk, it is more than just an inconvenience to requesters; ultimately, it is the health of Canadian democracy that is at stake.

Approved by

Suzanne Legault
Information Commissioner of Canada

Layla Michaud, CPA, CMA, MBA
Director General, Corporate Services,
Chief Financial Officer

                                        

Ottawa, Canada
September 30, 2013

Statement of Authorities (unaudited)

(In thousands of dollars)Fiscal year 2013–2014Fiscal year 2012–2013
Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2014*Used during the quarter ended September 30, 2013Year-to-date used at quarter-endTotal available for use for the year ending March 31, 2013*Used during the quarter ended September 30, 2012Year-to-date used at quarter-end
Vote 40: Program expenditures13,1712,2274,69910,8042,3674,877
Budgetary statutory authorities:
contributions to employee benefit plans
1,3593396791,359339679
Total Budgetary Authorities14,5302,5665,37812,1632,7065,556
Total Authorities14,5302,5665,37812,1632,7065,556

*Includes only authorities available for use and granted by Parliament at quarter-end.

Table 1: Departmental budgetary expenditures by Standard Object (unaudited)

(In thousands of dollars)Fiscal year 2013–2014Fiscal year 2012–2013
Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2014Expended during the quarter ended September 30, 2013 Year-to-date
used at
quarter-end
Planned expenditures for the year ending  March 31, 2013Expended during the quarter ended September 30, 2012Year-to-date
used at
quarter-end
Personnel9,1682,0404,5049,5352,2954,838
Transportation and communications16938611963661
Information12525421272336
Professional and special services2,1824126641,781291541
Rentals2053565913745
Repair and maintenance782228835
Utilities, materials and supplies381218581221
Acquisition of machinery and equipment2,5652228799
Other subsidies and payments
Total Budgetary Expenditures14,5302,5665,37812,1632,7065,556