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Institutions assessed in 2008–2009

Canadian International Development Agency

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) delivers Canada’s official development assistance around the world, working to reduce poverty, promote human rights and support sustainable development.

2008–2009 report card at a glance

whole star empty star empty star empty star empty star
F

  • Deemed refusal rate was 37.7 percent.
  • Average completion time was 157 days.
  • All but the most basic disclosure packages are sent to the minister’s office for approval.
  • Lengthy extensions of more than 30 days were common: 45 percent were for more than 90 days.
  • Difficulty retrieving records, due to the international scope of CIDA’s work, complicates the tasking process.
  • A backlog of 102 cases had accumulated from the previous fiscal year, which CIDA reduced by 18 in 2008–2009.
  • The number of pages reviewed doubled in 2008–2009.
  • CIDA set up agreements with its key partners—Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, the Department of Justice Canada, National Defence and the Privy Council Office—to facilitate timely consultations.
  • Recognizing that its compliance was not satisfactory in 2008–2009, CIDA has instituted a comprehensive action plan to address many of the issues that negatively affected its compliance rate, including taking the following actions:
    • changing the approval process, such that the minister’s office will be informed of a disclosure of documents 72 hours before release; and
    • allocating additional resources for new staff to eliminate the backlog, reduce individual workload and deliver training for access to information staff and awareness sessions for employees.

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

Number of requests carried over from 2007–2008
102
Number of new requests
150
Number of requests completed
168
Deemed refusal rate
37.7%*
Average time to complete a request (in days)
157
Number of consultation requests
86
Number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner
11
Number of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner resolved
4**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information office, as of March 31, 2009
8.29
 

* 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.


2008–2009 report card

Much of the effort of the new management and staff in the access to information office at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in 2008–2009 was spent instituting policies and procedures to reassure members of the minister’s office about release packages in order to reduce the level of approvals required for the majority of them. The minister’s office saw all but the most basic administrative requests, amounting to about 98 percent of the 150 requests CIDA received. The fact that the minister’s office had to approve the release of documents had an impact on CIDA’s ability to meet its legislative deadlines and ran counter to the access to information coordinator’s fully delegated authority. CIDA access to information officials, however, reported that they do not allot any extra time for the minister’s approval. This institution had a deemed refusal rate of 37.7 percent in 2008–2009—its first year as part of the report card process—along with an average completion time of 157 days and a backlog of 102 cases (although it did reduce the latter by 18 cases in 2008–2009). Lengthy extensions were common: 45 percent of the extensions CIDA took in 2008–2009 were for more than 90 days.

CIDA officials reported that their access to information capacity was challenged considerably once Canada entered the war in Afghanistan. While a staff of two could previously handle all of CIDA’s requests, it now requires 10 permanent staff members to manage the caseload. The number of pages processed doubled, even though the number of requests stabilized. The nature of CIDA’s widespread, international operations sometimes makes finding records difficult.

CIDA frequently needs to consult with other institutions, other countries and foreign agencies. The requests with an international scope are particularly time-consuming to process and contribute to delays. The situation has been no better domestically, since consultations with other federal institutions are so prolonged that CIDA releases whatever records are ready and closes files before knowing the results of the consultations. CIDA took steps to address this in 2009 by setting up agreements with key partners to facilitate timely consultations.

CIDA has launched an action plan that leverages the full support of management to establish standards, and train and educate staff at all levels, in order to build confidence in access to information operations. It is hoped that this plan will help improve operations that limit compliance, including changing the approval process.

Now that it has stable funding for 10 staff, CIDA hopes to retain them through a career development program that involves, among other things, introducing analysts to progressively more complex files and not promoting employees beyond their capabilities until their skill sets are sufficient.

Information management is another area that has received attention recently. CIDA renewed its hardware and software to standardize document storage. There is also a newly instituted communications process: the communications division manages requests for further public enquiry concurrently with the access to information process so as not to delay the release of records.

Despite its currently poor level of compliance, CIDA access to information officials said that they are confident they will be able to demonstrate the achievements of the action plan as it unfolds. The Office of the Information (OIC) expects to see the fruits of this plan in the coming years.

Recommendations

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the office of the Minister for International Cooperation strictly follow the delegation order in order to eliminate inappropriate levels of approval.

Response

CIDA has consulted with other government departments and has identified best approvals practices.

A new process will be put in place whereby the minister’s office will be informed of a disclosure of documents 72 hours before release.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency develop and implement a multi-year plan to improve compliance with the Access to Information Act, with particular attention to eliminating the backlog.

Response

CIDA’s access to information program has proactively taken steps to improve compliance and eliminate its backlog.

CIDA is developing a multi-year plan to improve compliance with the Act and prevent a future backlog. CIDA is concurrently implementing focused measures to eliminate the backlog by the end of the 2009–2010 fiscal year.

In the short term, CIDA hired (in July 2009) two consultants to work on the backlog. In addition, senior management is actively involved in updating internal procedures, carrying out proper staffing actions, restructuring the access to information office, and delivering awareness and training sessions to CIDA’s managers and staff.

On an ongoing basis, CIDA will put new procedures, training and awareness initiatives in place and update the multi-year plan to improve compliance with the Access to Information Act on an annual basis.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency develop protocols with other federal institutions to facilitate timely consultations.

Response

CIDA’s access to information program has come to agreement with other federal institutions to facilitate timely consultations. Access advisors are asked to discuss extensions for some types of request for consultations with other federal institutions, when required, and to follow up with the consultee on a regular basis once the deadline has been reached.

We have already reached agreement with key partners: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, National Defence and the ?Department of Justice Canada. An agreement has been in place with the Privy Council Office with regard to exclusions since December 15, 2009.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency’s director of access to information ensure that, when closing access request files related to outstanding mandatory consultations, requesters are informed that additional records may be forthcoming, that they will be informed of the outcome of the consultations even if no additional records were to be released, and that they have the right to complain to the Office of the Information Commissioner at each stage of the process.

Response

A process to inform requesters when closing access request files with outstanding mandatory consultations and informing them of their right to complain to the OIC at each stage of the process has been in place since the fall of 2009.

A special paragraph is included in the response to inform requesters whether there are any outstanding records in consultations, and all of our correspondence includes the paragraph informing requesters that they have the right to complain to the OIC at each stage of the process.

5. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency contact the institution it intends to consult for an estimate of the turnaround time and only extend the request by the specified amount of time.

Response

Refer to our response to recommendation 3, above.

6. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency comply with the Act and notify the Office of the Information Commissioner of all the extensions it takes for more than 30 days.

Response

A process notifying the OIC of all the extensions of more than 30 days has always been in place.

CIDA will continue to follow the notification process, which includes informing the OIC of all the extensions it takes for more than 30 days.

 

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

CIDA reported that it completed 30 of the requests it received in 2008–2009 after their due date. This graph shows how long these requests stayed open beyond that deadline.

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

Number and length of time extensions reported in 2008–2009

This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions CIDA reported to have taken in 2008–2009. CIDA supplied this information in the notices it sent to the OIC under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. CIDA submitted the notices 79 percent of the time in 2008–2009; the OIC expects this figure to be 100 percent in 2009–2010.

Number and length of time extensions reported in 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 CIDA in the last three reporting periods: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that CIDA delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about CIDA’s use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

Deemed refusal complaints

Deemed refusal complaints

The number of deemed refusal complaints increased from two in 2007–2008 to seven in 2008–2009; however, only two (29 percent) of the latter requests were resolved.

Time extension complaints

Time extension complaints

The number and outcome of time extension complaints against CIDA were mixed in the last three years.


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

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

  Resolved Not
substantiated
Discontinued Pending Total
2006–2007
Administrative 6 0 0 1 7
Refusals 0 1 0 0 1
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 6 1 0 1 8
2007–2008
Administrative 3 1 8 1 13
Refusals 0 3 2 0 5
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 3 4 10 1 18
2008–2009
Administrative 4 1 5 0 10
Refusals 0 0 0 1 1
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 4 1 5 1 11

The proportion of resolved complaints to the total was high in 2006–2007 at 75 percent. There were no resolved refusal complaints in any year, although one case was pending at the end of 2008–2009.

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