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Report Cards


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Institutions assessed in 2008–2009

Industry Canada

Industry Canada’s mission is to foster a growing, competitive and knowledge-based Canadian economy. Industry Canada works to improve conditions for investment, improve Canada’s innovation performance, increase Canada’s share of global trade, and build a fair, efficient and competitive marketplace.

2008–2009 report card at a glance

whole star whole star whole star whole star empty star
B

  • Deemed refusal rate was 8.7 percent.
  • Average completion time was 46 days.
  • Requests increased by 93 percent from 2007–2008.
  • Industry Canada completed 58 percent of new requests in 30 days; four requests were overdue.
  • Industry Canada submitted notices of extensions it took for more than 30 days 83 percent of the time.
  • Industry Canada is implementing a comprehensive information management agenda to enhance this capacity and facilitate efficient records retrieval.
  • Industry Canada has developed and implemented a number of practices for records holders to facilitate the efficient retrieval of records and processing of requests.
  • Industry Canada negotiates with applicants to streamline their requests and thereby reduce costs. It also releases responses to requests on CD-ROM.

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

Number of requests carried over from 2007–2008
118
Number of new requests
660
Number of requests completed
526
Deemed refusal rate
8.7%*
Average time to complete a request (in days)
46
Number of consultation requests
135
Number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner
79
Number of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner resolved
15**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information office, as of March 31, 2009
14
 

* 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

Industry Canada’s compliance with the Access to Information Act was good in 2008–2009, despite the institution’s having experienced a 93 percent increase in requests. Its deemed refusal rate was 8.7 percent and it took, on average, 46 days to complete a request. Industry Canada was able to complete 58 percent of its requests within the 30-day statutory time limit in 2008–2009. However, it carried a backlog of 252 requests over into 2009–2010.

A new delegation of authority as of July 2009 added a layer of approval for access requests at the senior executive level. Industry Canada assured the Office of the Information ommissioner (OIC) that, nonetheless, the authority to release information packages remains with the director and managers of the access program. The OIC is of the view that delegation orders should be appropriate, efficient and transparent. Industry Canada should ensure that any additional level of approvals does not lead to delays.

Industry Canada reported being delayed by other federal institutions’ turnaround times when doing mandatory consultations, citing, for example, an average turnaround time of 120 days with the Privy Council Office. Industry Canada took 52 percent of its time extensions for longer than 90 days. Industry Canada reports that time extensions taken are based on multiple factors, such as the number of consultations required on a given file, the volume of information to be reviewed, previous similar cases, and the need to confirm the timing of consultations with certain key organizations.

Information management continues to be a challenge at Industry Canada, since the institution has no central registry for its vast and diverse record holdings. Industry Canada is implementing a comprehensive information management agenda, designed to enhance its capacity in this area and improve access to information and records.

To improve efficiency and clarity at the records retrieval stage, Industry Canada has records holders use a template to identify information requiring consultations and possible severances, and any other information germane to the request.

It also asks records holders to write out a rationale for any exemptions, consultations or possible severances, rather than simply quoting the relevant subject of the Access to Information Act. This allows records holders to provide any useful context and background that may affect decisions made about the release of records.

Industry Canada had a failing grade on its first report card in 2003–2004, so its four-star rating, and its low deemed refusal rate and average completion time in 2008–2009 are noteworthy. The OIC looks to the leadership at Industry Canada to maintain and, in fact, improve on that record. In coming years, the OIC will look to see what effect the new delegation order, the information management initiatives, the hiring of a consultant to work on the backlog, and the growing number of requests have on Industry Canada’s ability to comply with the Act.

Recommendations

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that, given the additional level of authority added to the delegation order, Industry Canada’s access to information coordinator ensure that requests are approved and released with no additional delays.

Response

In keeping with Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat policy and recommendations, Industry Canada has implemented a delegation instrument that includes specific senior executives for purposes of providing support and advice to the executive management of the department, if and when required.

For practical and functional purposes, the director and managers of Information and Privacy Rights Administration (IPRA) exercise full authority for all powers, duties and functions pursuant to access legislation that are required to perform the daily operations and to ensure compliance.

The delegation instrument currently provides full autonomy to the director and the managers of IPRA. In reviewing Industry Canada’s business practices and approval processes there has been no change or impact in responding to access requests as a result of the existing delegation order.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Industry Canada develop a clear plan to tackle the backlog of access requests in order to improve overall compliance with the Act.

Response

IPRA has developed a strategy and implemented various initiatives to address the backlog situation. However, given the large backlog, any results in reducing it will take some time before taking effect.

For example, in the short-term, the department is doing the following:

  • hiring a consultant to help with the backlog;
  • communicating with applicants to confirm continued interest in requests received prior to 2008;
  • negotiating with applicants to reduce scope and/or volume of material on large files;
  • amalgamating requests when possible to maximize efficiency and processing; and
  • authorizing overtime for staff to focus on specific files.

In the long-term, the department has initiated the following:

  • staffing actions to fill vacant positions;
  • ongoing review and streamlining of internal business practices to reduce delays;
  • continuing negotiations with applicants to better respond to requests in more timely fashion; and
  • increasing communication and awareness with Industry Canada employees to improve response times and deliverables.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Industry Canada strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Response

Industry Canada continues to endeavour to respect compliance and to reduce the number of deemed refusal cases. Actions that have been implemented to date:

  • negotiating with applicants to reduce scope and offering alternatives, be it previously released information, publicly accessible documentation or informal discussions with program officials;
  • increasing access awareness and training with Industry Canada employees to improve response times and deliverables;
  • working closely with program officials to develop workplans and strategies for improving responses to requests;
  • communicating and negotiating with third parties and other stakeholders (i.e. other jurisdictions) concerning the disclosure of their information in response to requests;
  • providing applicants with information on CD-ROM; and
  • updating the access case management tool to improve efficiency.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Industry Canada review and continue to document the criteria it uses for extensions to ensure that they are reasonable and legitimate.

Response

Industry Canada determines reasonable legal time extensions based on multiple factors on a case-by-case basis. For example, the department will consider the number of consultations required on a given file, the volume of information to be consulted, and the time taken on previous similar cases. Industry Canada will also confer with certain key organizations on the timeliness of their consultation responses. As a standard practice, IPRA advisors will document the supporting facts as noted for each request.

5. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Industry 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

Industry Canada has an established business practice of sending copies of extension notices to the OIC when extensions for more than 30 days are taken, except in cases when extending pursuant to paragraph 9(1)(c). Existing form letters automatically include the cc to the OIC.

 

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

Industry Canada reported that it completed only four of the requests it received in 2008–2009 after their due date. This graph shows that the institution closed two of them in fewer than 30 days but that it took more than 90 days to close the other two.

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 Industry Canada reported to have taken in 2008–2009. Industry Canada supplied this information in the notices it sent to the OIC under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. Industry Canada submitted the notices 83 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 Industry Canada in the last three reporting periods: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that Industry Canada delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about Industry Canada’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 overall number of deemed refusal complaints decreased from 2006–2007 to 2007–2008, then increased slightly the subsequent year (11; 4; 6). The proportion of resolved deemed refusal complaints to the total was high in all three years (55 percent; 75 percent; 100 percent).

Time extension complaints

Time extension complaints

The number of time extension complaints increased significantly each year (2; 10; 31), while the proportion of resolved complaints to the total decreased (50 percent; 30 percent; 19 percent).


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 Industry Canada 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 7 7 0 0 14
Refusals 3 2 1 0 6
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 10 9 1 0 20
2007–2008
Administrative 10 5 2 1 18
Refusals 1 3 1 3 8
Cabinet confidences 0 3 0 3 6
Total 1 11 3 7 32
2008–2009
Administrative 15 13 11 2 41
Refusals 0 0 2 36 38
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 15 13 13 38 79

In each of the three years, there was a near-even split between resolved and not substantiated complaints (10:9; 11:11; 15:13). The number of resolved refusal complaints declined over the three years (3; 1; 0), but 36 refusal complaints were pending at the end of 2008–2009.

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