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Report Cards


Year


Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada

Status report on access requests in a deemed-refusal situation

1. Background

Every department reviewed has been assessed against the following grading standard:

% of Deemed Refusals

Comment

Grade

0-5%

Ideal compliance

A

5-10%

Substantial compliance

B

10-15%

Borderline compliance

C

15-20%

Below standard compliance

D

More than 20%

Red alert

F

This report reviews Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada’s (PSEPC) progress, since the previous report, in coming into compliance with the time requirements of the Access to Information Act. In addition, this report contains information on the status of the recommendations made in the 2006 Status Report. It is to be noted that, effective March 7, 2007, the department will be known as Public Safety Canada. While the legal title remains the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, other references to the department may now use the title Public Safety Canada.

  1. COMPLIANCE HISTORY

Last year, the Office of the Information Commissioner has conducted the first Report Card on PSEPC. The department failed to come into ideal compliance during that period of review. Therefore, PSEPC has not been able to meet its obligations under the Access to Information Act to respond to access requests in a timely manner.

 

In 2004-2005, the department received 150 new access requests and carried over 25 access requests from the previous fiscal year, for a total of 175 access requests. Of the 175 access requests, 24 were completed in a deemed-refusal situation, four were carried over from the previous fiscal year in a deemed-refusal situation and a further eight were carried over to the next fiscal year in a deemed-refusal situation. The deemed-refusal ratio for the full fiscal year 2004-2005 was 20.6%, resulting in an "F".

For the first eight months of 2005-2006, the department received 102 new access requests and carried over 45 access requests from the previous fiscal year, for a total of 147 access requests. By November 30, 2004, 14 of the 147 access requests were completed in a deemed-refusal situation, 8 were carried over from the previous fiscal year in a deemed-refusal situation, and a further 9 remained in a deemed-refusal situation at the end of the eight-month period. The deemed-refusal ratio for the first eight months of 2005-2006 was 21.1%, resulting in an "F".

 

3. CURRENT STATUS

For the first eight months of 2006-2007, the department received 150 new access requests and carried over 56 access requests from the previous fiscal year, for a total of 206 access requests. As a result, the department received 150% more requests than the previous year at the same period. The deemed-refusal ratio for the first eight months of 2006-2007 was 18.9%, resulting in a "D".

4. RECOMMENDATIONS

Because of the factors described in this report, PSEPC was not able to achieve ideal compliance with the time requirements of the Access to Information Act.

Recommendation #1

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.

PSEPC failed to attain ideal compliance. One quarter of its workload consisted of requests carried over from the previous year. Almost one-third of these requests were in a deemed-refusal situation. Had PSEPC processed these requests in a timely manner, the deemed-refusal ratio would have resulted in a "B" on the grading scale. Additional effort should be made to complete these older requests in order to improve grading.

Recommendation #2

That the Delegation Order for PSEPC be amended to provide delegated authority under the Access to Information Act to the ATIP Coordinator, who has the necessary knowledge to make the decisions required by the Act.

This previous recommendation #1.9 was not implemented last year. We are still of the view that it should be implemented.

Recommendation #3

That Senior Management initiate the development of an access to information vision that can be communicated to departmental employees.

This previous recommendation #4.1 was not implemented last year. We maintain that it should be implemented.

 

Recommendation #4

That PSEPC, as part of the renewal of the Information Management Program, determine if there are additional categories of information that could be disclosed proactively.

Our previous recommendation #5.1 was not implemented last year. We are of the view that it should be implemented.

Recommendation #5

That the ATIP Office institute requirements in the PSEPC Procedures for OPIs under the Access to Information Act for documenting the rationale for claiming all exemptions, for the exercise of discretion, and for the consideration of exceptions to mandatory exemptions.

Our previous recommendation #1.11 was not implemented last year. We are still of the view that it should be implemented.

Recommendation #6

That the ATIP Office develop criteria to consider for exercising discretion on whether or not to release information considered subject to a discretionary exemption.

Our previous recommendation #4.5 was not implemented. We are still of the view that it should be implemented.

5. status OF 2006 RECOMMENDATIONS

The following recommendations were made to support PSEPC’s continued efforts to process requests within the time requirements of the Access to Information Act:

Previous Recommendation #1.1

An ATI Office Manual be updated to document criteria for clarifying or modifying an access request.

Action Taken:

This is ongoing. As of November 1, 2006, the department completed the first draft of the ATI Office Manual.

Previous Recommendation #1.2

The ATIP Office develop a fee waiver policy for access requests.

Action Taken

: This has been completed. Under the proposed policy, fees will be waived: if the department is late in responding to an access request; if photocopying fees are $25 or less; if the search estimate is less than two hours beyond the five non-chargeable hours allowed per request; or in other circumstances deemed reasonable by the ATIP Coordinator.

Previous Recommendation #1.3

The ATIP Office develop, for inclusion in an ATI Office Manual, criteria for contacting the requester to obtain consent when an access request for personal information is made under the Access to Information Act and PSEPC wishes to process it as a request under the Privacy Act.

Action Taken

: This has been completed. The proposed policy states that:
  • if an access request for personal information is made under the Access to Information Act, the ATIP Unit will contact the requester and obtain consent if PSEPC wishes to process it as a request under the Privacy Act;
  • if the applicant also wants the request processed under the Access to Information Act, the ATIP Unit will inform the applicant that the search criteria (by name) are the same for ATI and Privacy;
    • if the applicant insists that the request also be processed under the Access to Information Act, the ATIP Unit will do so without requiring an application fee – only if the search does not involve a different set of records or the requester is able to identify which specific records the information may be held in.

    Previous Recommendation #1.4

    The ATIP Office document the criteria for categorizing an access request as abandoned or unable to process.

    Action Taken

    : This has been completed. The proposed policy states that:
    • in instances where no records exist, the ATIP Unit will advise the requester in writing that the department was "unable to process because no records exist";
    • when the ATIP Unit sends a letter requesting clarification or provides a search cost estimate and requests a deposit, the letter will state that, if the ATIP Unit has not heard from the requester within 30 days, the request will be deemed to have been "abandoned by the requester".

     

    Previous Recommendation #1.5

    The ATIP Office develop, for inclusion in an ATI Office Manual, criteria to take into account when considering whether or not to discuss with a requester that an access request be treated informally.

    Action Taken

    : This has been completed. The draft policy states that:
    • the ATIP Unit will contact the requester either by telephone, or in writing, to ascertain whether the requester agrees to the access request being treated informally if the requested records have been previously disclosed. The ATIP Unit will advise that informal requests cannot be appealed to the OIC;
    • if a person calls requesting information that is already being requested, perhaps having seen it on the PWGSC Catalogue of Access to Information Requests (CAIR) system, the information will be provided to the person free of charge, as long as photocopy costs are under $25.

    Previous Recommendation #1.6

    The ATIP Office develop a request processing model that is within the statutory timeframe allowed by the Access to Information Act.

    Action Taken

    : This has been completed. The department adopted a six-step process for processing access requests within the statutory timeframe. In these timelines, one day is allowed to receive the request, 10 days are allowed to branches to provide input, review for possible exemptions, and identify possible consultations. Also, 10 days are allowed to review input and exemption and seek extension for consultations. Finally, 5 days are allowed to ADM for final approval prior to release.

    Previous Recommendation #1.7

    The ATIP Office produce a monthly report that provides the ATIP Office and Senior Management at PSEPC with information on how well timelines are met when responding to access requests. The reports will provide Senior Management, OPIs and the ATIP Office with information needed to gauge overall departmental compliance with the Act’s and department’s time requirements for processing access requests.

    Action Taken

    : This has been adopted. The ATIP Officemonitors time requirements and provides information to senior management and OPIs on a weekly basis through the record of business report.

     

    Previous Recommendation #1.8

    PSEPC review the access request process to eliminate numerous review and approval stages that do not add value to the ATI decision-making process. Communication requirements for OPIs and other individuals who require information on an access request disclosure package be handled in a separate and parallel process.

    Action Taken

    : The actual process is described in Previous Recommendation # 1.6 above. In our view, the approval process could be streamlined to follow our latest recommendation #2 on the amendment of the Delegation Order.

    Previous Recommendation #1.9

    The Delegation Order for PSEPC be amended to provide delegated authority under the Access to Information Act to the ATIP Coordinator, who has the necessary knowledge to make the decisions required by the Act.

     

    Action Taken

    : This is presently under review. The department failed to follow this recommendation. Accordingly, the same recommendation will be maintained this year.

    Previous Recommendation #1.10

    The ATIP Office include in an ATI Office Manual a requirement to contact a requester when an extended time limit will not be met to inform the requester of a new expected response date.

    Action Taken

    : This has been completed under the draft policy:
    • when extended time limits will not be met, the ATIP Unit will advise requesters in writing and inform them of their right to complain to the Information Commissioner;
    • the ATIP Unit will also advise a requester in writing if the initial 30-day response time is being extended and send a copy of the notice to the OIC, when required.

    Previous Recommendation #1.11

    The ATIP Office institute requirements in the PSEPC Procedures for OPIs under the Access to Information Act for documenting the rationale for claiming all exemptions, for the exercise of discretion, and for the consideration of exceptions to mandatory exemptions.

    Action Taken

    : This is presently under review. The department failed to follow this recommendation. Accordingly, the same recommendation will be maintained this year.

    Previous Recommendation #1.12

    Where PSEPC consults with, or is consulted by, a department routinely, the departments enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to cover their responsibilities in the consultation process including the provision of rationales for claiming exemptions.

    Action Taken

    : This is presently under review. Informal agreements are presently in place with CBSA, the RCMP, and DFAIT.

    Previous Recommendation #2.1

    The Senior Management Committee of PSEPC actively manage and audit improvements to the ATI Program, including the development of an ATI Improvement Plan.

    Action Taken

    : This is in progress. As of October 1, 2006, the department made its first draft of the ATIP operational improvement plan.

    Previous Recommendation #2.2

    The ATIP Office conduct an analysis of the completed access requests for FY 2004-2005 and FY 2005-2006 to determine the reasons for missed extension dates and develop a plan to resolve the situation as part of an ATI Improvement Plan.

    Action Taken

    : The improvement plan is complete. Senior Management is also monitoring on an ongoing basis. However, we recommend that the plan be modified since we disagree with the automatic claim of 130-day extension on every request that require consultations.

    Previous Recommendation #2.3

    PSEPC should come into substantial compliance with the Act’s deadlines no later than March 31, 2008.

    Action Taken

    : The department has targeted March 31, 2008, for substantial compliance. However, this year it is recommended 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.

    Previous Recommendation #3.1

    The budget of the ATI Office be reviewed in conjunction with the development of an ATI Improvement Plan to determine the appropriate level of ATI staffing required to comply with the requirements of the Access to Information Act.

    Action Taken

    : This is in progress. A review of the ATIP Officehas been completed, and options have been put forward. Staffing actions are underway to staff vacant positions. A business case is in development to address resourcing issues.

    Previous Recommendation #4.1

    Senior Management initiate the development of an access to information vision that can be communicated to departmental employees.

    Action Taken

    : This is under review. The department failed to follow this recommendation. Accordingly, the same recommendation will be maintained this year.

    Previous Recommendation #4.2

    The ATIP Office develop an ATI Operational Plan with an ATI Improvement component that addresses the elimination of the deemed-refusal situation.

    Action Taken

    : This is in progress. As of October 1, 2006, the department made its first draft of the ATIP operational and improvement plan.

    Previous Recommendation #4.3

    The ATIP Office develop an ATI Office Manual on the policies and procedures for processing access requests.

    Action Taken

    : This is in progress.

    Previous Recommendation #4.4

    The PSEPC Procedures for OPIs for processing documents under the Access to Information Act be updated.

    Action Taken

    : This is in progress. These procedures are being updated in the first draft of the ATIP Office Manual.

    Previous Recommendation #4.5

    The ATIP Office develop criteria to consider for exercising discretion on whether or not to release information considered subject to a discretionary exemption.

    Action Taken

    : This is under review. The department failed to follow this recommendation. Accordingly, the same recommendation will be maintained this year.

    Previous Recommendation #4.6

    The ATIP Office develop and implement an ATI Training Plan.

    Action Taken

    : This is ongoing. Sixteen training workshops were to be delivered between November 9, 2006 and March 1, 2007. The targeted audience is all employees of the department involved in the ATIP process, either directly or indirectly.

    Previous Recommendation #4.7

    The ATIP Office review its use of ATIPflow and ATIPimage to explore whether these tools are used to their full advantage in the management of ATIP administration.

    Action Taken

    : This is in progress. The ATIP Officeis in the process of formulating its requirements for the completion of a threat and risk assessment which will inform the department’s implementation strategy for new technological tools that have become available.

    Previous Recommendation #5.1

    PSEPC, as part of the renewal of the Information Management Program, determine if there are additional categories of information that could be disclosed proactively.

    Action Taken

    : This is under review. The department failed to follow this recommendation. Accordingly, the same recommendation will be maintained this year.

     

     

    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

    Mar. 31/06

    Apr. 1/06 to

    Nov. 30/06

    1.

    Number of requests carried over:

    46

    56

    2.

    Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year:

    13

    20

    Part B: New Requests - Exclude requests included in Part A.

    Apr. 1/05 to

    Mar. 31/06

    Apr. 1/06 to

    Nov. 30/06

    3.

    Number of requests received during the fiscal period:

    172

    150

    4.A

    How many were processedwithin the 30-day statutory time limit?

    74

    54

    4.B

    How many were processed beyond the 30-day statutory time limit where no extension was claimed?

    13

    11

    4.C

    How long after the statutory time limit did it take to respond where no extension was claimed?

    1-30 days:

    10

    5

    31-60 days:

    2

    3

    61-90 days:

    1

    3

    Over 91 days:

    0

    0

    5.

    How many were extended pursuant to section 9?

    73

    75

    6.A

    How many were processedwithin the extended time limit?

    8

    17

    6.B

    How many exceeded the extended time limit?

    23

    2

    6.C

    How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?

    1-30 days:

    8

    1

    31-60 days:

    5

    0

    61-90 days:

    4

    0

    Over 91 days:

    6

    1

    7.

    As of November 30, 2006, how many requests are in a deemed-refusal situation?

    6

     

    EXCERPT FROM DEPUTY MINISTER’S RESPONSE TO STATUS REPORT

    "When your office conducted its first review of the Department, we received an "F" on the grading scale. As highlighted in your second review, the Department has taken a number of steps in response to both this unacceptable grade and to your office’s recommendations. The progress made to date has resulted in an improved grade of "D".

    Our achievements to date include putting in place a simplified processing model, drafting an ATIP Office Manual and an Operational and Improvement Plan and implementing ATI training sessions for management and staff.

    Although we are encouraged by your confirmation that progress is in fact being made, we recognize that much remains to be done to achieve the identified target of at least a grade of "B" by 2008. We believe that it would be appropriate for that target to remain as previously established. We are committed to work diligently to continue to improve our performance.

    Departmental officials will continue to work with your staff as we move forward. Thank you again for providing me with the results of your most recent review."