Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada Quarterly Financial Report For the quarter ended December 31, 2013 - Revised

Erratum

Date: March 21, 2014

Location: Table 1: Departmental budgetary expenditures by Standard Object (unaudited), Fiscal year 2012-2013, Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2013, Professional and special services and Total Budgetary Expenditures.

Revision: “Professional and special services 2,083” replaces “Professional and special services 1,974” and, “Total Budgetary Expenditures 12,718” replaces “Total Budgetary Expenditures 12,609”.

Rational for the revision: To include the frozen allotment related to Budget 2012 of 109 (in thousands of dollars) in the Total Budgetary Expenditures since the frozen allotment was included in Total Authorities in the Statement of Authorities (unaudited), in fiscal year 2012-2013, in the Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2013 column.

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

1. 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.

1.1 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.

2. Highlights of fiscal quarter and year-to-date results

The Statement of Authorities below shows that the OIC spent approximately 23% of its authorities in the third 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 Authorities of $1.9 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 increased by $246,000 (8%) in the third quarter of 2013−2014, compared to the same period in 2012−2013. There were significant variances within elements of planned expenditures, as follows:

  • The increase of $223,000 in Professional and Special Services is mostly due to additional legal fees and temporary help services for the relocation paid in 2013-2014;
  • The increase of $133,000 in Acquisition of Machinery and Equipment is mainly due to the cost of new furniture and equipment related to the relocation of our offices in 2013-2014;
  • Partially offset by a decrease of $71,000 in Personnel and a decrease of $30,000 in Rentals.

3. 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%; 67% of the administrative complaints are being closed in 90 days, and 61% of priority and early resolution files are being closed within six months. However, in the third quarter, 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.

Since 2009-2010, our year-end lapse of funds has been 3%, on average. This has left us with nearly no financial flexibility, a situation exacerbated by our budget having been impacted by nearly 9% since 2009, due to various cuts and other measures. In addition, we project that the relocation of our offices in early 2014 will require us to divert 2.5% of our budget from our program to cover ongoing costs, including repaying the loan we secured to finance the move, starting in 2014–2015. Under the operational spending freeze announced in the 2013 Speech from the Throne, we will also have to absorb salary increases. All in all, this could amount to a further impact on our budget.

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

4. Significant changes in operations, personnel and program

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

5. 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
December 31, 2013

Statement of Authorities (unaudited)

(In thousands of dollars) Fiscal year 2013–2014 Fiscal year 2012–2013
Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2014* Used during the quarter ended December 31, 2013 Year-to-date used at quarter-end Total available for use for the year ending March 31, 2013* Used during the quarter ended December 31, 2012 Year-to-date used at quarter-end
Vote 40: Program expenditures 13,171 2,938 7,637 11,284 2,692 7,569
Budgetary statutory authorities:
contributions to employee benefit plans
1,359 340 1,019 1,434 340 1,019
Total Budgetary Authorities 14,530 3,278 8,656 12,718 3,032 8,588
Total Authorities 14,530 3,278 8,656 12,718 3,032 8,588

*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 2013–2014 Fiscal year 2012–2013
Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2014 Expended during the quarter ended December 31, 2013 Year-to-date
used at
quarter-end
Planned expenditures for the year ending March 31, 2013 Expended during the quarter ended December 31, 2012 Year-to-date
used at
quarter-end
Personnel 9,168 2,426 6,930 10,128 2,497 7,335
Transportation and communications 169 43 104 150 37 98
Information 125 32 74 117 47 83
Professional and special services 2,182 601 1,265 2,083 378 919
Rentals 205 22 87 131 52 97
Repair and maintenance 78 3 25 16 3 8
Utilities, materials and supplies 38 13 31 41 13 34
Acquisition of machinery and equipment 2,565 138 140 52 5 14
Other subsidies and payments
Total Budgetary Expenditures 14,530 3,278 8,656 12,718 3,032 8,588