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Report Cards


Year


Institutions assessed in 2007–2008 and reassessed in 2008–2009

Public Works and Government Services Canada

Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) is a service agency for the Government of Canada’s various departments, agencies and boards. It provides guidelines and policies, and carries out certain administrative and management functions on behalf of the federal government.

2008–2009 report card at a glance

whole star whole star whole star whole star half star
B

  • Deemed refusal rate was 4.5 percent.
  • Average completion time was 92 days, which is high in light of its otherwise improved compliance.
  • Strong leadership from the deputy minister and the commitment of access to information officials helped to dramatically improve PWGSC’s compliance.
  • A three-year action plan to improve access to information operations brought numerous benefits. For example, PWGSC’s carry-over of overdue requests has gotten steadily smaller in the past three years.
  • Status of access to information as a program rather than a corporate service has brought stable funding and autonomy.
  • Stability among key staff, successful recruitment and retention, and a manageable workload enabled PWGSC’s access to information office to meet its obligations.
  • PWGSC has enhanced its career development program.
  • PWGSC submitted notices to the Office of the Information Commissioner of extensions of more than 30 days 60 percent of the time.

Some facts about access to information operations at PWGSC in 2008–2009

Number of requests carried over from 2007–2008
148
Number of new requests
584
Number of requests completed
611
Deemed refusal rate
4.5%*
Average time to complete a request (in days)
92
Number of consultation requests
245
Number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner
52
Number of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner resolved
16**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information office, as of March 31, 2009
18
 

* Percentage of carried over and new requests delayed beyond the deadlines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act. (See Appendix B for the formula the Office of the Information Commissioner used to calculate this rate.)

** A complaint is resolved when the Office of the Information Commissioner finds it has merit, and the institution resolves it to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.


Follow-up on 2007–2008 report card

PWGSC proposed a comprehensive three-year action plan to address its below average compliance in 2007–2008 (see pp. 130–133 of the 2007–2008 special report) Of note, PWGSC hired a number of consultants to clear its backlog of late requests by the end of March 2008, being of the view that doing so would lead to a dramatic increase in compliance in 2008–2009. PWGSC revamped its officer development program to include access staff at the PM-01 to PM-03 levels, and subsequently launched competitions for several PM-02s and PM-03s. These and other staffing actions brought in a number of new employees in 2008–2009. PWGSC requires any employees hired under the officer development program to enroll in the University of Alberta’s access to information and privacy certification program. PWGSC’s action plan—and the work the institution has done to implement it—reflects the deputy minister’s commitment to access to information and the institution’s commitment to bringing its compliance back up to optimum levels.

2008–2009 report card

PWGSC’s dramatic improvement in compliance in 2008–2009 illustrates what is possible through a combination of planning, commitment, execution and leadership. The institution achieved a deemed refusal rate of 4.5 percent in 2008–2009 (compared to 22.6 percent in 2007–2008), mid-way into its three-year action plan that was developed in 2007–2008. This plan was instrumental in this turnaround.

There were other factors that contributed to PWGSC’s accomplishment, namely starting off 2008–2009 with no backlog of overdue requests, which allowed staff to respond promptly to new access requests. There was stability among analytical staff, and new direction at the director general and coordinator level, which created a positive blend of experience and energy.

PWGSC considers access to information to be a program rather than a corporate service. This distinction has translated into more autonomy and stable funding for the access to information office.

PWGSC turns around incoming consultation requests from other institutions in an average of 25 days, but does not always receive the same response time when it sends out its own consultations. It is a considerable source of frustration for PWGSC, which is trying to achieve maximum compliance, yet control over its work is taken out of its hands.

The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) is concerned about PWGSC’s use of extensions, which may explain how it simultaneously achieved a 4.5 percent deemed refusal rate and a 92 day average completion time. The OIC stresses that any extensions should be reasonable and legitimate.

PWGSC has been part of the report card process since 2002, and its compliance has varied over the years. The OIC acknowledges PWGSC’s considerable improvement in compliance in 2008–2009, particularly within the context of increased scrutiny of government stewardship of public funds, and calls on the institution to take all possible measures to maintain that achievement.

Recommendations

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Works and Government Services Canada continue to follow its three-year plan and revise it, if necessary, with specific initiatives that respond to emerging issues to ensure continued top performance and compliance with the Act.

Response

PWGSC is continuing to adjust and implement the activities outlined in its plan.

The Access to Information and Privacy Directorate will revise the plan to include the actions needed to respond to this report card, and any other activities deemed appropriate, with a view to further improving the access to information program.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Works and Government Services Canada document and review the criteria it uses for extensions to ensure that the extensions are reasonable and legitimate.

Response

Given the nature and mandate of the department, the records requested generally concern procurement-related activities and contain sensitive government and/or third party commercial information.

Time extensions are therefore required to undertake the necessary consultations with client departments and third parties in order to obtain their representations prior to making final disclosure decisions under the Act.

Based on the volume of records to be reviewed, the number of parties to be consulted and/or the operational realities, it is believed that the time extensions taken are reasonable and legitimate. When an extension is 90 days or more, the requester is assured in the notice of extension that a response will be provided earlier than anticipated if the consultations and document review are completed before the extended due date.

The reasons for the time extensions are documented in the case management system.

The Directorate will review and document the criteria for time extensions. For example, for X number of pages, Y days are required; for consultations with department Z, Y days are required. The best practices of other institutions demonstrating ideal compliance in this regard will also be examined.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Works and Government Services Canada reduce the average completion time for requests.

Response

The Directorate makes every effort to ensure that requests are completed in an efficient and timely manner. As a result, the average number of days taken for all requests completed to date in this fiscal year is 66 days. This is a 28 percent decrease compared to 2008–2009.

Through its Quality Circle, the Directorate will continue to review issues and suggestions raised by access to information management and staff to improve its systems and processes.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Works and Government Services Canada strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Response

While the departmental compliance target has been set at 95 percent for 2009–2010, we are very pleased with our performance since April 2009, having attained 98.2 percent compliance as of December 31, 2009. This is an improvement of 2.7 percent compared to last fiscal year.

The department will strive to reduce deemed refusals and sustain a compliance rate of 95 percent or more. However, the complexity and number of requests make it difficult to attain 100 percent compliance.

The Directorate will continue to closely monitor the department’s performance and report regularly to senior management.

5. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Works and Government Services Canada comply with the Act and notify the Office of the Information Commissioner of all the extensions it takes for more than 30 days.

Response

The Directorate has procedures in place in this regard, and a cc to the OIC is already included on its extension notice templates. The process consists of sending a notice letter by mail to the OIC.

The Directorate is reviewing its case files to confirm that a cc was sent to the OIC for all extensions of more than 30 days, as the report notes that the OIC only received notice of 60 percent of these extensions.

In consultation with the OIC the Directorate will modify its current process to confirm that extension notices have been sent to the OIC in compliance with subsection 9(2) of the Act.

The Directorate will reiterate to its staff the necessity of complying with this legislative requirement and the expected results.


Deemed refusal rate, 2004 to 2008–2009

This graph shows the deemed refusal rate for PWGSC for the last five reporting periods. This is the percentage of carried over and new requests PWGSC delayed each year beyond the deadlines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act.

Deemed refusal rate, 2006 to 2008–2009

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

PWGSC reported that it completed 13 of the requests it received in 2008–2009 after their due date. This graph shows how long these requests stayed open beyond that deadline.

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

Number and length of time extensions reported in 2008–2009

This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions PWGSC reported to have taken in 2008–2009. PWGSC supplied this information in the notices it sent to the OIC under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. PWGSC submitted the notices 60 percent of the time in 2008–2009; the OIC expects this figure to be 100 percent in 2009–2010.

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

These graphs show the number and outcome of two types of complaint registered against PWGSC in the last three reporting periods: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that PWGSC delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about PWGSC’s use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. Resolved requests are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

Deemed refusal complaints

Deemed refusal complaints

The number of deemed refusal complaints reached a three-year high in 2007–2008 at 11. The number of resolved deemed refusal complaints was a large but decreasing proportion of the total number of complaints received each year (100 percent; 82 percent; 50 percent).

Time extension complaints

Time extension complaints

The number of time extension complaints increased significantly between 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 (from 15 to 26). The OIC discontinued 11 files in 2008–2009.


Number and outcome of complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

This table sets out the number and outcome of the complaints the OIC registered against PWGSC in each of the last three reporting periods. Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

  Resolved Not
substantiated
Discontinued Pending Total
2006–2007
Administrative 15 2 2 0 19
Refusals 4 6 5 3 18
Cabinet confidences 0 3 0 0 3
Total 19 11 7 3 40
2007–2008
Administrative 18 3 8 0 29
Refusals 0 7 0 11 18
Cabinet confidences 0 1 0 0 1
Total 18 11 8 11 48
2008–2009
Administrative 15 2 13 1 31
Refusals 1 3 0 14 18
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 3 3
Total 16 5 13 18 52

The number of refusal complaints was identical (18) each of the three years. The number of resolved refusal complaints was a small proportion of those complaints each year (22 percent; 0 percent; 5 percent). In each of those years, the bulk of complaints were administrative (19 of 40; 29 of 48; 31 of 52); these include complaints about overdue requests and PWGSC’s use of time extensions. Each year, a large, but decreasing, proportion of these requests were resolved (79 percent; 62 percent; 48 percent)

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