The Department took a number of measures to improve the timely delivery of its access to information program as follows:
1) Compliance with 10-Day Retrieval
The Department provides offices with 10 days to submit responsive records and recommendations to the ATIP Unit. To help ensure that this timeline is met, in 2007/08 all executive level performance management agreements included a commitment with respect to meeting ATIP obligations and timelines. Quarterly performance was monitored and provided to Senior Management which helped ensure that they paid regular attention to ATI timeliness. In FY 07/08, offices required on average 12.5 days before providing responsive records to the ATIP Unit. The average was reduced to 9.26 days in FY 08/09. This represents a significant improvement, which contributed to the Department’s ability to respond to 90% of requests on time in 08/09. The Department’s Executive Committee continues to receive weekly updates on processing of ATI requests within the organization.
2) Revised Delegation Instruments/Approval Process
- The Minister signed a new delegation instrument in June 2009 which retains delegation at the senior management level. Given the nature of the Department’s activities, the complexity and sensitivity of the information involved and the possible ramifications of releasing information that could impact the nation’s security, this level of delegation ensures that the individual most familiar with the records is able to exercise discretion about exemptions and provide advice on consultations. It also helps ensure senior level attention is given to the processing of files.
- If a file requires the approval of more than one senior official, every effort is made to seek approvals concurrently.
- The Department’s ATIP Manager now has authority to apply s. 19(1) allowing for severances of personal info in the ATIP Unit in most instances without having to return to the relevant ADM.
In 2008/09, the Department obtained new software and, as a result, the ATIP Unit began working with electronic processing software, AccesPro Case Management and Redaction, in August 2009. It is expected that these tools will contribute to more timely responses because processes have been simplified and paper records are now being handled less frequently.
4) Training and awareness
- In 2008/09, the ATIP Unit delivered targeted training for areas in the Department where training was most needed (e.g. because of patterns of delay or unfamiliarity with processes).
- The ATIP Unit has committed to delivering 10 ATI awareness sessions over the current year. These sessions are now being coordinated by the Department’s learning centre, thereby ensuring the widest possible dissemination of the availability of this training within the institution. The impact of this change was quickly evident in that most sessions this fiscal year were fully booked within a week of being announced.
- Training materials are also available to all employees on the Department’s intranet site.
- Training of ATIP personnel remains a priority for the Department in spite of heavy workloads. All ATIP Unit employees participate in Treasury Board Secretariat learning events, and some are seeking certification through the University of Alberta’s Information Access and Protection of Privacy program.
5) Relocation of the ATIP Unit
The ATIP Unit was moved within the main Headquarters’ building in November 2008. The Unit is now in closer proximity to delegated authorities and the Central Records office. Employees of the ATIP Unit are now more visible and accessible to senior management, and files do not have to travel between buildings as often, thereby saving time in the process.
The Department created one new Senior ATIP Advisor (PM-05) position in FY 07/08 and one AS-02 positions in FY 08/09 to afford staff developmental opportunities and aid in succession planning.
7) Interim Responses
The ATIP Unit has implemented procedures to a) inform requesters when the statutory deadline will not be met and provide an approximate response date when possible, and b) provide interim responses to requesters when possible.
8) Regular Reporting to Executive Committee
An analysis of deemed refusals in 08/09 identified 10-day retrieval and final sign-off as areas requiring attention. In 2008/09, weekly reports were provided to the Department’s Executive Committee members to foster senior management awareness and accountability for ensuring that organizations were meeting ATI requirements. These reports identified:
The DG responsible for ATIP also engaged ADMs directly and immediately if a file falling within their area of responsibility was approaching deemed refusal.
In addition, Branches were provided with on time retrieval stats on a quarterly basis. All of these practices remain an integral part of the Department’s approach to managing ATIP performance.
- All new requests which led to improved compliance with the 10-day retrieval timeline;
- due dates of upcoming releases which led to improved compliance for final sign-off (senior managers have 48 hours to sign off a release package); and
- new deemed refusals so that senior management was aware.