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Questionnaires

Year


National Defence 

Part A: Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year (2007-2008)
1. Number of requests carried over: 674
2. Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year— in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year 219
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 1669
4.A How many were completed within the statutory 30-day time limit? 538
4.B How many were completed beyond the statutory 30-day time limit where no extension was claimed ? 0
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 ? 0
  1-30 days: 0
  31-60 days: 0
  61-90 days: 0
  Over 91 days: 0
5. How many were extended pursuant to section 9? 1097
6.A How many were completed within the extended time limit? 637
6.B How many exceeded the extended time limit? 51
6.C How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?  
  1-30 days: 20
  31-60 days: 12
  61-90 days: 10
  Over 91 days: 9
7. Number of requests carried over in 2009-2010? 443
8. As of April 1 st , 2009, how many requests are in a deemed-refusal situation? 100
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
 

Significant Issues: 

Broad and vague nature of many ATI requests

Many requesters submit requests that are not for specific records but instead for categories of records or for all records pertaining to a particularly expansive or vague subject. Many requests contain insufficient information to identify all appropriate record holders or to identify a clear scope in terms of time, location etc.... Many of these requests are not in the spirit of section 6 of the Act. The term “sufficient detail” in that section is not defined and may be interpreted in many ways. This situation requires that DND staff spend significant amounts of time attempting to contact the requester and assisting them in re-scoping the request so that they can be properly processed. This does not always work effectively, either because some requesters resist re-scoping or because record holders misinterpret the scope of the request or because the re-scoped request still entails a large amount of work. Often DND staff and record holders are not aware of the extent of work that will be involved or do not realize that a request can be interpreted more expansively until late in the process. Such broad and vague requests commonly require an extension beyond the 30 days that the Act sets out as a norm. Taking an extension under 9(1)(a) is a very inexact process because that extension must be taken within the first 30 days and the full extent of the work involved may not be known at that time. It is also very difficult to estimate how large a volume of records will be produced in such cases. When many more records are produced than expected the time spent conducting the review process can be much longer than anticipated, causing deemed refusal situations. 

Requests for records containing matters of operations security

A large number of requests are received pertaining to Canadian Forces operations, primarily in Afghanistan. Many of these records are very sensitive in nature and great care must be taken to review them appropriately for any information that may compromise the safety of Canadian troops, allies or the success of operations. Such information is not necessarily obvious to Access to Information staff (DAIP) so consultations must be undertaken with operational commands and with the Strategic Joint Staff Information Support Team (SJS IST), which is tasked with this review. This review necessarily adds time to the processing of these requests. The volume of these requests coupled with the need for the Operations Security Review discussed above, has resulted in a large number of these cases falling into deemed refusal.  

Requests for records located outside Canada

This is related to the previous point in that most of these records pertain to Afghanistan. It is not always clear to DAIP at the outset whether responsive records are likely to be held outside the country and this may not be realized until late in the process. When they are in a theatre of operations such as Afghanistan, it is problematic not only because of the distance but also because personnel in Afghanistan are understandably quite busy with operational matters that may delay them directing their attention to an ATI request. This clearly falls within the scope of unreasonable interference with operations as described in section 9(1) (a) of the ATIA but not necessarily the requirement regarding volume of records.  

Requests filed in bulk

This continues to be a problem although it has eased somewhat since the last reporting period. There is no limit on the number of requests that any single requester can submit at any one time and some requesters do submit bulk requests. This is not always a problem, particularly when the requests are on various subjects. Although they are all due on the same date they can be divided amongst analysts within DAIP and assigned to various record holders. The problematic requests come from requesters who submit bulk requests that must be directed to the same record holder. One requester submitted 145 requests in this reporting period (125 of which were submitted between May and August) and which were almost entirely tasked to the same organization for response. This is a strain on the abilities of that organization to search and review the records in a timely fashion. In such a case, it is not possible to respond to all of the requests within 30 days. This can be problematic if each request individually does not meet the standard of a large volume of records required for an extension under 9(1)(a). 

Consultations sent to other institutions

The response time for consultations sent to PCO is particularly long. In this reporting period PCO has required that all section 69 consultations be sent through the office of the DND/CF Legal Advisor. This additional step has caused an even longer delay, as this is an additional burden on DND CFLA, which is primarily occupied with providing legal advice. Consultations with DFAIT are also notable because of lengthy response times. 

Consultations received from other institutions

A number of consultations from Library and Archives Canada during this reporting period have been very large (hundreds or thousands of pages) consisting of entire records groups. Not all of the documents in the records groups pertain to this institution and in some instances only a small numbers of the records are relevant. The sorting out and review of these files has been very time consuming and has taken away from DAIP efforts to process ATI requests.

Staff shortages

DAIP staff numbers are still insufficient to close all incoming requests and also deal with the current backlog.

10.
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

Request re-scoping

As part of the duty to assist, the tasking officers in DAIP have been making greater efforts to work with the requesters to scope their requests so that they reflect what the requesters are truly searching for and in an effort to process requests as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Streamlined SJS IST review process

DAIP consults the Strategic Joint Staff Information Support Team (SJS IST) on requests that result in records containing matters of operations security. This is a particularly important process given CF operations in Afghanistan but it has tended to slow down the departmental response time to ATI requests. During this reporting period DAIP and SJS IST agreed to a policy change intended to speed up this consultation process. The main change involves DAIP sending for review only the records intended for release with the exemptions and exclusions already applied. This cuts down on the amount of records in the consultation process. DAIP also undertook measures to expedite the delivery of consultation packages. These changes have increased the efficiency of consultations and it is anticipated that 2009-2010 will show marked statistical improvements in review time. 

Professional Development Plan

The DAIP Professional Development Plan (PDP) was put into full swing in this reporting period with 7 analysts participating. The PDP allows for participants to join at the PM-02 level and, after participating in a progressive series of assessed Job Training Assignments, to be promoted to PM-03 and PM-04 without competition. This program has been well received by the DAIP staff and has helped improve morale. 

DAIP expansion The Department has acquired additional resources and accommodations to handle the higher volume of requests.

Administrative Complaint Process

In response to the changes instituted by the Information Commissioner to expedite the complaint process, DAIP changed the procedures for dealing with administrative complaints. Those complaints are now handled centrally by the Compliance and Training Team. This, along with the efforts of the Office of the Information Commissioner, has resulted in a large increase in efficiency in the complaint resolution process, as can be seen by the amount of complaints closed in this reporting period (345 vs. 99 in 07-08). This has the added benefits of freeing the Access Team analysts from  

dealing with administrative complaints so they can devote more time to the actual review of the records and accelerate the completion of requests as well as allowing the Compliance and Training Team to notify the Director of any systemic problems they may note in DAIP processing. 

Training

In this reporting period a total of 62 training sessions were given and 1,367 participants were familiarized with the Act and given a better understanding of their obligations and of the process within DND/CF. Customized sessions were also provided to specialized groups. DAIP continues to fund training sessions outside of the National Capital Region. The training sessions are intrinsic to achieving increased compliance with both the Access to Information and Privacy legislation.  

Informal Releases

1,401 informal requests for information were processed by DAIP in support of the DND/CF broader objective of providing Canadians with relevant information on an informal and timely basis. This number does not include numerous e-mails or telephone calls from potential requesters who were redirected to other informal routes in order to obtain the information. These requests were for records previously released formally. DAIP posts the text of previously released requests on their internet site and requesters contact them for copies of these records. As most of these releases are on compact disk, DAIP provides this service free of charge.

Part D: Completion Time
11. What is the average completion time for all requests completed in 2008-2009?
  >30 days: 34.75% (580 requests) 31 days to 60 days: 14.08% (235 requests) 61 days to 120 days: 19.53% (326 requests) <121 days: 34.15% (620 requests) % was rounded up and may not total 100%
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.

  

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