CSC is committed in ensuring that responses to Access to Information Act requests are conducive to a culture of openness and transparency, and though CSC was unable to respond to several ATI requests within the statutory time limits in 2008/09, we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that compliance rates significantly improve in 2009/10 and in future years.
The most significant issue affecting CSC’s ATIP Division’s ability to respond to requests in a timely manner in 2008/09 was the result of an accumulation of insufficient resources allocated to the program in previous years. As highlighted in the OIC 2008/09 Annual Report to Parliament, many delays in responding to ATI requests are encountered across government as a result of limited funding allocated to the ATIP programs. Until recently, CSC’s ATIP Division was under resourced relative to the high volume of ATIP requests received annually – a combined total of 7216 formal requests . This impacted greatly on CSC’s ability to respond to requests within statutory deadlines. However, in late 2007, a business plan was presented to CSC senior management which demonstrated the need for a significant investment in the ATIP program to ensure compliance rates would improve. In response CSC re-allocated a significant amount of financial resources allowing for a sizeable increase to the permanent FTE compliment, along with technological investments to improve the efficiency of the ATIP Division.
This investment by CSC was significant, however, ATIP management was, and is still required to expend a large number of time undertaking staffing actions and competitive processes to fill these positions. Nevertheless, as we reach the conclusion of these staffing plans in response to the investment made, we anticipate that this matter will begin to stabilize.
High turnover and retention of experienced analysts as a result of increased staffing in other ATIP Office’s across the government remains a significant issue to CSC. In 2007/08, nearly all of CSC’s experienced ATI analysts moved to other federal government institutions for promotion opportunities. These departures had a negative impact on the processing of requests in 2008/09. All ongoing requests were put in abeyance and had to be reassigned. Compounding this issue is that in previous years the organizational structure was organized into two distinct processing groups - one team dedicated to processing Privacy Act requests and another to processing Access to Information Act requests. Though staffing actions were immediately initiated to fill the vacant positions, management had to temporarily resort to assigning ATI requests to existing analysts with very little or no experience in ATI legislation. These analysts required a great deal of support and training and delays were subsequently encountered on a regular basis.
It is anticipated that the recent creation of senior level positions will result in increased retention of analysts who would normally leave to attain this level in other departments. Furthermore, to ensure the Division does not encounter the issue of having analysts with limited experience in and knowledge of the ATI legislation and processes, all analysts are now assigned both requests under the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. This operational measure ensures continued professional development of the Division’s analysts and ensures management does not face difficulties regarding unexpected staff turnover in the future. Also, the creation of a new unit dedicated to training and policy ensures that training is an integral part of its operations.
During 2008/09, the ATIP Division reviewed its processing methods for information requests (including approvals) and determined that with the exception of a few minor processes, the procedures were sound and effective and did not affect responding in a timely fashion. In a continued effort to improve processing, CSC also invested in the purchase of the Access Pro Case Management system. Though this system is not yet installed, it is expected to be operational during 2009/10 and will allow all of its requests to be processed in a more expedient fashion. Currently the ATIP Division processes all of its requests in a non-technological manner (markers and photocopiers) which impedes on expedient processing.