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Citizenship and Immigration Canada
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 Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) progress to attain 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 January 2006.
2. COMPLIANCE HISTORY
The Office of the Information Commissioner has conducted Report Cards and status reviews on CIC on eight occasions. Although the department obtained ideal compliance, a grade of "A", on one occasion, it has not been able to maintain that grade. Therefore, CIC has not been able to meet its obligations under the Access to Information Act to respond to access requests in a timely manner.
In early 1999, the Office of the Information Commissioner issued a Report Card on the department’s compliance with the statutory time requirements of the Access to Information Act. In the 1999 Report Card, the department received a red alert grade of "F", with a 48.9% request to deemed-refusal ratio.
In January 2000, the Office of the Information Commissioner reviewed the status of the recommendations made in the Report Card and made further recommendations for measures to reduce the number of access requests in a deemed-refusal situation. From April 1 to November 30, 1999, the deemed-refusal ratio for access requests improved to 23.4%, still a grade of "F".
In January 2001, the Commissioner’s Office review reported that the department had set an objective in 2000-2001 of completing 70% of access requests within the timelines of the Act. The view of the Office of the Information Commissioner was that the objective fell short of what was needed to comply with the time requirements of the Act. The actual performance of the department for 2000-2001 was a 19.6% new request to deemed-refusal ratio resulting in a grade of "D", denoting below standard performance.
In January 2002, the Commissioner’s Office issued another Status Report and recommendations. For the period of April 1 to November 30, 2001, the new request to deemed-refusal ratio was reduced to 13%, denoting a grade of "C". The momentum was sustained for the full fiscal year of 2001-2002, achieving a grade of "C", with a new request to deemed-refusal ratio of 12%.
The January 2003 review reported that CIC had joined a select group of departments who have achieved a grade of "A" that denoted ideal compliance with the statutory time requirements of the Access to Information Act. For the period from April 1 to November 30, 2002, the new request to deemed-refusal ratio was 3.8%, with the ratio slipping only marginally to 4.9% for the full fiscal year, still a grade of "A". This constituted a significant achievement by CIC departmental staff and management dealing with the access request process. The department was highly commended for its efforts and encouraged to maintain this performance.
In the Status Report of 2004, it was reported that, although CIC had made steady progress in reducing the number of access requests in a deemed-refusal situation, the department slipped considerably in its performance for the period April 1 to November 30, 2003. CIC’s deemed-refusal to requests received ratio was 15.4%, for a grade of "D", reflecting below standard performance.
In the 2005 Report Card, the department received a borderline compliance grade of "C" with a 13.8% request to deemed-refusal ratio for requests received from April 1 to November 30, 2004. This was the first year 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 fiscal year 2004-2005, CIC received a grade of "F", with a 20.2% request to deemed-refusal ratio.
The 2005 review reported that CIC slightly improved its performance as the deemed-refusal ratio fell from 20.2% to 15.3%, a grade of "D".
3. Current Status
For the reporting period of April 1 to November 30, 2006, the department’s request to deemed-refusal ratio was 8.0%, a grade of "B".
During the reporting period, CIC received 6,738 requests. CIC started the year with 1,525 pending access requests with 321, or 21%, in a deemed-refusal situation. Many of the pending requests belonged to one requester. At the time this report was written, the inventory of requests from that requester had been eliminated. However, the department has since received over a hundred requests from that same requester.
The actual grade of CIC is deceiving considering that CIC undertook the following initiatives last year to gain efficiencies and/or improve client service under the Accessto Information Act:
development of an internet site to assist the public to obtain forms and information about ATIP at CIC;
- creation of an internal website to assist CIC employees in the processing of ATIP requests;
- changes to the delegation of authority to gain efficiencies and reduce bottlenecks in the Public Rights Administration Division (PRAD);
- distribution of promotional messages, workshops, training courses, and awareness sessions to increase the awareness and understanding of ATIP across the department. PRAD delivered seven training sessions in the regions and at National Headquarters (NHQ). Two branch-specific information sessions were also given. In addition, PRAD presented the basics of ATIP at all "Welcome to CIC" courses given by the department;
- changes to processes and procedures to gain efficiencies in processing (particularly with respect to the use of technology);
PRAD has finalized an ATIP Coordinator’s manual to assist NHQ and regional coordinators in the exercise of their function. A list of responsibilities for NHQ ATIP coordinators was also created, distributed, and posted on PRAD’s intranet site. Information and Q&As are being regularly circulated to ATIP coordinators and posted on PRAD’s intranet site;
- development of a partnership with the Information Management Branch to increase awareness of information management across the department and its relation to ATIP;
- a comprehensive review of ATIP processes across the department, resourcing, and organization structure of PRAD was completed. As a result of this review, changes to processes have been undertaken;
- an action plan was developed and approved in 2005.
Because of the factors described in this report, CIC 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.
As enunciated last year, additional resources will permit CIC to eliminate its backlog. The department plans to eliminate its reliance on ATIP consultants through the addition of several new senior staff.
That CIC review its file tracking system in a timely manner.
Some of CIC’s obstacles in attaining ideal compliance were created by the fact that the department encountered some difficulty in finding the relevant responsive records to respond to access requests, especially when files were located overseas. CIC should review its file retrieval system to avoid similar problems in the future.
That, at intake, the ATIP Office have an experienced analyst review access requests to make an initial determination if the access request warrants a time extension, as well as institute control measures to ensure that any claim for a time extension is made within the 30-day time limit.
5. STATUS OF 2006 RECOMMENDATIONS
The following recommendations were made to support CIC’s continuing efforts to process requests within the time requirements of the Access to Information Act:
Previous Recommendation #1
That CIC attain ideal compliance and a grade of "A" by March 31, 2007.
Action Taken: CIC failed to meet this goal. However, many measures were undertaken to improve the current situation. These are:
1) elimination of backlog of overdue files;
2) continuous review of processes to determine if efficiencies can be gained;
3) weekly monitoring of compliance rate as calculated by the Information Commissioner’s formula;
4) regular (sometimes daily) assessment of priorities and reassignment of resources as necessary to maximize ability to meet deadlines;
5) continuation of circulation of information to CIC ATIP coordinators in each branch, with the goal of educating them, sharing best practices, improving understanding of the Acts and policies, and keeping them advised of changes that affect ATIP at CIC;
6) monthly updates of the ATIP section of CIC’s internal intranet;
7) regular conference calls with the regional ATIP coordinators;
8) yearly conference for all CIC ATIP coordinators;
9) continuation of monthly reporting to DGs and ADMs with respect to their branch’s/sector’s performance in meeting deadlines set by PRAD;
10) close partnership with Information Management Division;
11) departmental training on ATIP, inclusion of ATIP in the base CIC course for new employees, presentation to the Departmental Management Committee, branch specific training where requested or needed;
12) establishment of a training coordinator position responsible for both departmental training and coordination of training for PRAD;
13) development of standard learning plans for each level in PRAD;
14) establishment of a client service unit to respond to client questions regarding ATIP at CIC, and requests for updates on files;
15) review and update of ATIP page on CIC’s external internet, including the addition of a section on frequently asked questions.
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: 9; 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?
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EXCERPT FROM DEPUTY MINISTER’S RESPONSE TO STATUS REPORT
"… I wish to recognize the value of the annual review exercise undertaken by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC). It is through these kinds of reviews and the recommendations which follow that our continued efforts to gain efficiencies and improve client-service can be further strengthened.
…Overall, I am pleased with the Department’s commitment and effort over the past two years to improve our performance, resulting in an improved rating this year. The grades used in the report assess Departmental performance are challenging. I am pleased that we have been able to achieve an 8% non-compliance grade. I am also proud that CIC missed deadlines in only 4.1% of requests received in the period, carry-over from the previous year aside. I am equally pleased with our efforts to ensure good quality work given the significant volumes, the quality and quantity of policy work done to ensure that ATIP responsibilities are well understood and adhered to across the Department, the health of the working environment in the ATIP division, the contribution to government-wide ATIP issues and the development of resources for the ATIP community.
As we continue to strive for ideal compliance, I continue to be proud of the achievements of our ATIP program."