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Fisheries and Oceans Canada 

Part A: Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year (2007-2008)
1. Number of requests carried over: 103
2. Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year— in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year 28
Part B: New Requests received in fiscal year 2008-2009— Exclude requests included in Part A
3. Number of requests received during the fiscal period 396
4.A How many were completed within the statutory 30-day time limit? 233
4.B How many were completed beyond the statutory 30-day time limit where no extension was claimed ? 16
4.C How long after the expiry of the statutory 30-day time limit did it take to complete the request where no extension was claimed ?  
  1-30 days: 12
  31-60 days: 1
  61-90 days: 3
  Over 91 days: 0
5. How many were extended pursuant to section 9? 123
6.A How many were completed within the extended time limit? 62
6.B How many exceeded the extended time limit? 11
6.C How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?  
  1-30 days: 5
  31-60 days: 4
  61-90 days: 1
  Over 91 days: 1
7. Number of requests carried over in 2009-2010? 74
8. As of April 1 st , 2009, how many requests are in a deemed-refusal situation? 2 + 4B + 6B + 8(a) DFO is still using ATIPFlow 28 + 16 +11 +11 = 66   1 + 3 = 103 + 396 = 499   66 divided by 499 = 0.132 11             13% non-compliance
Part C: Contributing Factors
9. Please describe the most significant issues that affected your institution’s ability to respond to access to information requests in a timely manner (within 30 days and/or statutory timelines). These may include:
  • Requests for large volume of records
  • Approval process of access requests
  • Difficulties to retrieve records (OPIs turnaround time)
  • Staff shortages
  • Requests filed in bulk
  • Consultations with other institutions
  • Others

DFO ATIP experiences to varying degrees most of the same sorts of challenges as other departments subject to the federal access legislation – challenges such as those listed above.   DFO regards these as simply the significant realities of the ATIP business. Another reality is that because DFO is a relatively large de-centralized institution, we (as do other institutions of similar size) face the challenge of retrieving records from multiple subject matter experts (SMEs) spread from coast to coast to coast.

Ensuring that these multiple SMEs are all working from the same interpretation of the wording of the request can also frequently present a challenge.   DFO’s mandate is to deliver to Canadians the following outcomes: Safe and Accessible Waterways; Healthy and Productive Aquatic Ecosystems; and Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The diversity of our programs and activities, in addition to the size of our department results in the fact that we often receive requests for large amounts of scientific or technical information that involve processing tens of thousands of pages of records. Such requests often emanate from environmental interest groups, lawyers, and professional researchers. Further, because of the operational nature of the department, an additional reality is that responding to requests for the retrieval of records can understandably take second priority on occasion.

The administrative requirements of running an ATIP unit also impact on delivery. Staff shortages in the community as a whole prompted DFO to establish a recruitment and retention training program for new ATIP analysts. While this project has been extraordinarily successful, the significant reality of this is that it takes time for new analysts to acquire the necessary training and expertise to process the type of complex requests which makeup the majority of DFO’s access requests, and it requires a time commitment from senior staff to provide this training and development.

Similar to other government institutions, the fulfillment of other administrative and reporting requirements such as responding to informal questions and requests, annual review and update of Infosource, and training of departmental employees are all activities that fall under the responsibility of the unit and can impact on the unit’s ability to meet all of the deadlines under the legislation. DFO is happy however to report that in fiscal year 2008-2009 we were able to close more than 20 files that had been in a deemed refusal situation (2 from 2005, 14 from 2006, and 7 from 2007).

Those files involved more than 118,239 pages of records – 6 of the files each had more than 10,000 pages of records, and another 6 had in excess of 2500 pages of records on each file. Closing these large overdue files obviously had an impact on our compliance rate for fiscal year 2008-2009.

Please describe any practices or policies developed/undertaken by your institution to improve the timely delivery of your access to information program and where possible, indicate how successful these practices/policies have been. These may include:
  • Informal treatment of requests
  • Streamlined approval process
  • Partial release of records
  • Fast track process for common requests
  • Others
DFO ATIP regularly examines established practices and processes in order to achieve efficiencies and improve effectiveness. Some of those improvements which we have adopted over the last number of years include:
  • Requiring program experts to provide their recommendations regarding the sensitivity of the responsive records upfront – that is when they provide the records to ATIP. DFO in essence eliminated the review/concur process previously used at the end of the process to obtain the program’s approval of the release package.
  • As previously mentioned, DFO has established a recruitment and retention program for new ATIP trainees to address the shortage of qualified analysts in the community. DFO makes a significant investment in these trainees, including formal and informal training, coaching and mentoring. As also previously mentioned, this program has been extraordinarily successful.
  • Recently, DFO re-established a requirement that packages of responsive records to an ATIP request be signed-off at the DG level or above. This ensures greater accountability and senior manager awareness of what information has been provided and that comments on sensitivity of the records is comprehensive.
  • Processing tools such as retrieval emails, checklists, and guidance documents have been updated and strengthened in an effort to achieve some time savings. For example, the deadline for providing search estimates was reduced by several days, and a checklist was provided for programs to use in an effort to ensure all attachments, final copies of the records were provided to the ATIP Secretariat upfront thus hopefully reducing the need to go back to programs for missing attachments, etc.)
  • One other best practice which has been a huge success at DFO is a program of continuous learning including initiatives such as bi-weekly “analysts” meeting. Attendance is voluntary, based on workload, but it is a forum where analysts meet regularly to discuss questions and share best practices and lessons learned on such things as the processing of files, dealing with clients, handling complaints, using the software, etc. The discussions are recorded and used to complement our procedures manual. Any significant issues that are raised at these meetings are then brought forward for discussion at the regular bi-weekly staff meetings. This forum has contributed significantly to the success of the new trainee development program at DFO as well as the culture of continuous learning.
Part D: Completion Time
11. What is the average completion time for all requests completed in 2008-2009?
  36,732 days taken to process 409 requests = an average of 89.809 days per request.
Part E: Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act
12. Please attach your institution’s completed Report on the Access to Information (Form TBS/SCT 350-62) for the 2008-2009.