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Access to Information and Privacy Secretariat
Since our organization became subject to the Access to Information Act in 2007, we have proactively managed our access to information program with the goal of achieving perfect compliance with the law. We used new funding obtained in 2007 to staff analyst positions and to purchase electronic request processing software. Electronic processing allows us to manage records associated with access and privacy requests more efficiently, maximize compliance with deadlines, and deliver records on CD-ROM, which effectively eliminates photocopy fees—a potential barrier to access.
The resulting improvement in information management has had several benefits:
- reproduction fees have been eliminated;
- packages of records are easily re-created, when necessary;
- statistical reporting is more accurate; and
- the overall quality of the packages of records we release is generally improved, in terms of organization of the records, legibility, contextualization of information and completeness and accuracy.
The impact of better information management has also allowed us to build our access to information and privacy capacity. Given the widespread shortage in qualified personnel across federal institutions, and the need for more junior staff to come up to speed quickly, having reliable electronic records keeping and accompanying processes means that we can spend less time on training than previously and allows for greater ease of succession.
Our performance for 2008–2009
In 2008–2009, we received 113 requests under the Access to Information Act, and completed 109 of them within the year. We also received two requests under the Privacy Act, one of which we completed during the year. These figures represent a 20 percent increase in the number of requests received compared to the Secretariat’s first year of operation.
During the year, we also experienced a significant surge in volume, going from processing approximately 7,696 pages in our first year to processing 40,489 pages in our second, the vast majority of these needing to be dealt with in the third and fourth quarters. This represents a 414 percent increase in our workload. Our efforts to improve record-keeping practices will help us cope with this increased volume of pages. Despite this surge, we were able to maintain our record of responding fully within statutory timelines.
We have also made every effort to fulfill the duty to assist. Here are some examples of how we put this duty into action in the past year:
- We reviewed CD release packages to identify any information that could be misunderstood or unclear, and provided explanations to requesters.
- We discussed any potential time extensions with requesters prior to actually extending the timeline, and provided a clearly documented rationale for the additional time on the notice of extension, as well as the new due date.
- We negotiated the shortest possible turnaround time on consultations with federal institutions in order to provide the timeliest access possible, and released all records that did not require consultation within 30 days.
- We followed up on requests involving records not being disclosed under section 26 because of impending publication, and we responded to requesters once the records were published.
- We opened abandoned files as new requests, when necessary, and waived application fees, in order to preserve applicants’ right to complain.
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