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Department of National Defence
Status report on access requests in a deemed-refusal situation
Every department reviewed has been assessed against the following grading standard:
% of Deemed Refusals
Below standard compliance
More than 20%
This report reviews the Department of National Defence’s (ND) progress to achieve ideal compliance with the time requirements of the Access to Information Act, since the previous report. In addition, this report contains information on the status of the recommendations made in the Status Report of 2006.
2. COMPLIANCE HISTORY
The Office of the Information Commissioner has conducted Report Cards and status reviews on ND on eight occasions. The department has never come into ideal compliance during the period of our reviews. Therefore, ND has not been able to meet its obligations under the Access to Information Act to respond to access requests in a timely manner.
In January 1999, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) issued the first Report Card on ND’s compliance with the statutory time requirements of the Access to Information Act. In that report, ND received a red alert grade of "F", with a 69.6% request to deemed-refusal ratio for access requests received from April 1 to November 30, 1998. The report included a number of recommendations on measures that could be taken to reduce the number of requests in a deemed-refusal situation.
From April 1 to November 30, 1999, the deemed-refusal ratio for access requests improved to 38.9%, although still a grade of "F".
In January 2001, ND received a grade of "D", with a new request to deemed-refusal ratio of 17%, for the period April 1 to November 30, 2000. This report noted that the trend lines for reducing the number of access requests in a deemed-refusal situation were steadily improving.
ND continued to improve its performance in meeting the time requirements of the Access to Information Act, achieving a grade of "C", with a new request to deemed-refusal ratio of 11.8%, for the period from April 1 to November 30, 2001. However, that improvement was not maintained for the full fiscal year; while the grade remained the same at a "C", the ratio declined slightly to 12.7%.
For the 2002-2003 reporting period, the department attained a new request to deemed-refusal ratio of 9.1%, for a grade of "B", with this ratio slipping to a 12.7% ratio and a grade of "C" for the full fiscal year.
In the Status Report of 2004, it was reported that the department continued to strive to attain ideal compliance.
In the 2005 Report Card, the department received a substantial compliance grade of "B", with a 9.5% new request to deemed-refusal ratio for requests received from April 1 to November 30, 2004. This was the first year that requests carried over from the previous year, and the number of requests already in a deemed-refusal status on April 1, were taken into consideration.
For the full fiscal year 2004-2005, ND received a grade of "C", with a 13.4% request to deemed-refusal ratio.
In the 2006 Report Card, the department received a borderline compliance grade of "C", with a 14.8% new request to deemed-refusal ratio for requests received from April 1 to November 30, 2005. During this period, ND received 734 requests.
3. Current Status
For the reporting period April 1 to November 30, 2006, the department level of compliance was 8.6%, a grade of "B".
During the reporting period, ND received 1,069 requests. This is 335 more than the previous year. Complexity and sensitivity of the requests were also factors in the time taken to process requests.
With regards to staff resources, ND has continued to suffer from significant staff turnover. The constant stream of new employees with associated security issues, and the need to train them, has continued to impact negatively on the Directorate’s already limited processing resources.
Also, during the present reporting period, ND is still suffering from the move from 101 Colonel By Drive to 112 Kent Street. As it was necessary to re-install all of the communication lines, hardware and software related to ATIPimage, a special customized installation was required due to security requirements. This caused some difficulty with the ATIPimage system.
One of the main challenges encountered this year by the Directorate Access to Information and Privacy (DAIP) was the Canadian Forces transformation. This process involved the reorganization of some of the basis structures of the Canadian Forces through the creation of four Operational Commands reporting directly to the Chief of the Defence Staff. These are: Canada Command; Canadian Expeditionary Force Command; Canadian Special Operations Force Command; and Canadian Operational Support Command. The first practical effect upon DAIP consisted of initial confusion as to who was responsible for responding to ATIP requests for particular subjects. This was compounded by an overall lack of resources in those newly-created organizations, including the capability to respond to ATIP requests. The ATIP tasking structure that was put in place over a number of years had to be re-evaluated and reformed. Personnel in DAIP had to become familiar with the roles and responsibilities of these new and evolving organizations, and the new organizations had to recognize and respond to the necessity of staffing positions for processing ATIP requests – not necessarily a priority in today’s operational environment. A concentration of effort had to be made by DAIP to attempt to keep up with this major reorganization within the department to ensure information was quickly retrieved in order to comply with the Act.
Significant numbers of requests were received related to the mission in Afghanistan, and this very sensitive issue continues to remain a high profile matter for the Department of National Defence. On occasion, up to 37 requests per day were received from the same requester, that resulted in searches by a single group/OPI, often located overseas. Unfortunately, these volumes are onerous for groups to cope with, particularly with ongoing operations. This has made it difficult for DAIP to retrieve the information on time in many cases.
Because of the factors described in this report, ND was not able to achieve ideal compliance with the time requirements of the Access to Information Act.
That the Deputy Minister take responsibility to ensure that the ATIP Office implement all of our recommendations in the Report Cards and status reviews to ensure that the department attains and maintains ideal compliance without further delay.
5. STATUS OF 2006 RECOMMENDATIONS
The following recommendations were made to support ND’s continuing efforts to process requests within the time requirements of the Access to Information Act:
Previous Recommendation #1
That ND attain ideal compliance and a grade of "A" by March 31, 2007.
The department failed to comply with this recommendation. This is addressed at Recommendation #1
of this year’s report.
Previous Recommendation #2
The department address the staffing shortfall of the ATIP Directorate with a view to increasing resources as required.
This is ongoing. The department has established an internal development program in order to address the staffing shortfall.
6. QUESTIONNAIRE AND STATISTICAL REPORT
Questionnaire for Statistical Analysis Purposes in relation to official requests
made under the Access to Information Act
Part A: Requests carried over from the prior fiscal period.
Apr. 1/05 to
Apr. 1/06 to
Number of requests carried over:
Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year:
Part B: New Requests - Exclude requests included in Part A.
Apr. 1/05 to
Apr. 1/06 to
Number of requests received during the fiscal period:
How many were processedwithin the 30-day statutory time limit?
How many were processed beyond the 30-day statutory time limit where no extension was claimed?
How long after the statutory time limit did it take to respond where no extension was claimed?
Over 91 days:
How many were extended pursuant to section 9?
How many were processedwithin the extended time limit?
How many exceeded the extended time limit?
How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?
Over 91 days:
As of November 30, 2006, how many requests are in a deemed-refusal situation?
EXCERPT FROM DEPUTY MINISTER’S RESPONSE TO STATUS REPORT
The Deputy Minister did not provide comments regarding the findings and recommendations. Nevertheless, the department commented on a few inaccuracies in the report.