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Many access to information coordinators remarked on the critical importance of executive leadership to their institution’s performance. For example, one official observed that attitudes in his institution toward access to information compliance shifted significantly after the executive team sent a clear message to all staff that there would be zero tolerance for anything less than full co-operation with requests for information under the Act. Another official observed that a significant increase in resources for his access to information unit would not have been possible without firm support from the Deputy Minister. Unfortunately, there are also examples of inadequate leadership and this has a ripple effect in an institution, leading staff to believe that access to information is not a priority. One official observed that many senior executives are still unaware of their institution’s obligations under the Act.
We have also heard from some access to information coordinators that a culture of openness is completely dependent on who makes the decisions in the institution and how well the organization supports its leaders. A good performance on access to information in the past would be no guarantee of future good performance if the leadership were to change.
Since the Treasury Board Secretariat has overall responsibility within the federal government for ensuring that all federal institutions subject to the Act implement their responsibilities properly, we would expect to see it exercising high-profile and forceful leadership in this area. Specifically, as suggested by the recommendations above, we would expect the Treasury Board Secretariat to be playing a much stronger role in undertaking data gathering and analysis of how the access to information system is working, including trends brought to light in this report, and developing a government-wide approach to dealing with the shortage of staff, deficiencies in records management, the need for a learning strategy and professional development for all employees on access to information. We would also expect the Treasury Board Secretariat to monitor closely the compliance of federal institutions with respect to their responsibilities under the Act.
That, as part of the Management Accountability Framework, the Treasury Board Secretariat review current criteria to ensure that they are measuring the overall performance of federal institutions in meeting their obligations under the
Access to Information Act.
Parliament put in place a mechanism to ensure accountability for the administration of the Access to Information Act. Section 72 of the Act requires the head of every government institution to table an annual report on the administration of the Act within their institution before the House of Commons and the Senate. While this legal requirement applies to all 255 institutions subject to the ATIP legislation, only 20% of those institutions are assessed pursuant to the Management Accountability Framework (MAF).
As part of the MAF, activities related to the administration of the Access to Information Act have been assessed since fiscal year 2005-2006. The Treasury Board Secretariat assessed the performance of 53 institutions in the first year and is currently assessing the performance of 49 institutions for fiscal year 2007-2008. This evaluation comprises a review and analysis of the institution's annual report, its Info Source chapter, Departmental Performance Report, Report on Plans and Priorities, Program Activity Architecture structure and website to determine if the institution is providing complete, comprehensive and up-to-date descriptions of its functions, programs, activities and related information holdings. The annual report of the Information Commissioner is also reviewed to establish if issues specific to an institution were identified.
The methodology used for the assessments is reviewed each year and revised as required. It is anticipated that the ongoing review and refinement of the MAF methodology will continue in the future to ensure alignment with new policies, directives as well as the new statistical data collected. This refinement process will ensure the harmonization of all compliance assessment processes and reduce the administrative burden on institutions.