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Report Cards


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Institutions assessed in 2008–2009

Canadian Security Intelligence Service

The Canadian Intelligence Security Agency (CSIS) collects, analyzes and retains information and intelligence about activities that may threaten the security of Canada, and reports to and advises the Government of Canada on these matters.

2008–2009 report card at a glance

whole star whole star empty star empty star empty star
D

  • Deemed refusal rate was 20.9 percent.
  • Average time to complete a request was 86 days.
  • Staffing instability may have contributed to administrative errors, which negatively affected the compliance rate.
  • CSIS submitted notices to the Office of the Information Commissioner about extensions of more than 30 days 57 percent of the time.
  • The Office of the Information Commissioner resolved five out of six delay-related complaints registered against CSIS in 2008–2009.
  • CSIS receives more consultation requests than access to information requests.
  • CSIS has a strong information management structure.
  • The access to information office was successful in recruiting new staff after a large turnover, despite high security requirements.
  • One employee now plays a quality assurance role, overseeing both individual release packages and access operations in general.
  • CSIS proactively releases regularly requested records.
  • A software upgrade was scheduled for January 2010.
  • A compliance officer monitors the advancement of files and notifies the coordinator, as required.
  • CSIS carried eight overdue requests over into 2009–2010.

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

Number of requests carried over from 2007–2008
37
Number of new requests
150
Number of requests completed
140
Deemed refusal rate
20.9%*
Average time to complete a request (in days)
86
Number of consultation requests
182
Number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner
13
Number of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner resolved
6**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information office, as of March 31, 2009
15
 

* 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

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) compliance with the Access to Information Act in 2008–2009, its first year as part of the report card process, was disappointing. Its deemed refusal rate was 20.9 percent, and the average time to complete a request was 86 days. In addition, more than one quarter of the requests CSIS completed late were overdue by more than 90 days. However, CSIS also received more consultation requests than access requests in 2008–2009, essentially doubling the workload for the 15 full-time equivalents in the access to information office.

CSIS started the year with a significant staff turnover, but was able to recruit up to nearly a full staff complement as the year progressed. CSIS’s operating environment requires access personnel to have high security clearances. Access officials reported that this hampers recruiting efforts, which are already a challenge, given the shortage of qualified candidates.

The unfamiliarity of new staff with the case management system resulted in administrative errors. There is now a quality control function within the access to information office to oversee the integrity of both the disclosure packages and access to information operations as a whole, to avert further administrative mishaps. In addition, the coordinator reports that reinvigorated support across the organization for the access program will result in better staff retention.

CSIS has instituted a proactive approach to dealing with records that are requested regularly, and has allotted a full-time resource to this function. CSIS reports that it has already seen its deemed refusal rate go down in 2009–2010.

The institution’s information management practices contribute positively to the access to information function. CSIS employees must pre-code every record they create—right down to each email—for security and classification requirements. This facilitates easy retrieval in most cases.

CSIS has what should be an administrative advantage in the form of the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre. This consolidated, on-site group of representatives from federal, provincial and territorial institutions should smooth the consultation process on intergovernmental requests. Nonetheless, CSIS reports that consultations do contribute to its high deemed refusal rate and that it has developed a proactive process to improve the situation.

CSIS has recently undertaken training to help staff avoid administrative errors, upgraded its software and introduced the quality control function, all of which should help improve CSIS’s compliance in 2009–2010. CSIS itself has set as its goal to achieve a five-star rating for 2009–2010.

Recommendations

1. The Office of Information Commissioner recommends that the coordinator of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service access to information office ensure that its staff receives the administrative training necessary to avoid technical mishaps.

Response

During the period under review, 40 percent of CSIS access to information analysts were new and were not intimately familiar with all of the features of the ATIP Flow software. They have become more experienced with the software and the technical mishaps noted during the review ought not to recur.

In January 2010, CSIS will be migrating to the next generation of processing software, Access Pro. All access to information staff will receive formal training.

The review brought to the fore the need for analysts to better understand ATIP Flow, in particular the use of the Stop Clock feature. It is expected that the two two-day training sessions, in addition to the close mentoring that is already under way, will remedy this shortcoming.

All access to information employees were reminded of the ATIP Flow software Stop Clock feature, more specifically on how not to remove the action accidentally.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Response

The carry over of eight outstanding requests in deemed refusal from the 2008–2009 reporting period has made it impossible to achieve the ideal OIC compliance rate of less than five percent in 2009–2010. Nonetheless, CSIS remains committed to reducing its deemed refusal rate, which currently stands at seven percent. This figure includes the eight requests already in deemed refusal from the last reporting period. If it were not for these eight requests, the deemed refusal rate would stand at one percent, which is very close to the OIC’s ideal compliance rate.

The progress of all requests is closely monitored by the access compliance officer. All requests nearing the time limit are brought to the attention of the access coordinator.

The Stop Clock feature of the ATIP Flow software is utilized to its fullest. The legislated time period allowed to process the requests has been optimized.

Time extensions are more realistic and are tailored accordingly.

During our access to information training sessions, key stakeholders and offices of primary interest are reminded of our legislative obligations and of the necessity of providing timely responses and document turnaround.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service reduce the average amount of time it takes to respond to requests.

Response

In many instances, the content and sensitivity of the records requested require extensive internal and external consultations. Although the access to information office has some control over the internal consultations, we do not set the priorities of other departments. Nevertheless, efforts will be made to remind our partners to respond to our consultation requests in a timely manner.

It is important to consider that despite the high staff turnover and various long-term absences among some staff, CSIS has no request backlog to deal with. Ninety-nine percent of all requests received by CSIS after April 1, 2009, have been processed within the legislated time limits.

Considerable effort has been devoted to reducing the average time required to process a request. This average currently stands at 38 days, which is a marked improvement over last year’s average of 86 days.

CSIS anticipates that the results achieved from implementation of the actions described under recommendation 2, above, will reduce the average amount of time to respond to requests.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service comply with the Act and notify the Office of the Information Commissioner of all the extensions it takes for more than 30 days..

Response

This shortcoming has been explicitly addressed with access to information staff during the course of regular meetings. All access to information employees were reminded of the obligation to notify the OIC of all extensions that go beyond 30 days.

The access compliance officer will conduct regular audits to ensure that the OIC notifications are not overlooked in the future.

As an additional safeguard, the access coordinator will receive a weekly status report from the access clerk on this specific task.

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

CSIS reported that it completed 22 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 CSIS reported to have taken in 2008–2009. CSIS supplied this information in the notices it sent to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. CSIS submitted the notices 57 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 CSIS in 2008–2009: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that CSIS delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about CSIS’s use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. Resolved complaints 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 OIC resolved every deemed refusal complaint registered against CSIS in the last three years (7).

Time extension complaints

Time extension complaints

The number and outcome of time extension complaints against CSIS 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 OIC registered against CSIS 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 2 0 0 0 2
Refusals 2 2 0 0 4
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 4 2 0 0 6
2007–2008
Administrative 3 1 1 0 5
Refusals 1 2 0 1 4
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 1 1
Total 4 3 1 2 10
2008–2009
Administrative 5 0 1 0 6
Refusals 1 2 1 3 7
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 6 2 2 3 13

The overall number of complaints registered against CSIS increased in the last three years (6; 10; 13).

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