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Report Cards


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Institutions assessed in 2008–2009

Public Safety Canada

Public Safety Canada coordinates and supports the efforts of federal organizations to ensure national security and the safety of Canadians. It works with various stakeholders on issues of emergency management, national security, law enforcement, crime prevention and the protection of Canada’s borders.

2008–2009 report card at a glance

whole star whole star whole star half star empty star
C

  • Deemed refusal rate was 8.5 percent.
  • Average completion time was 75 days.
  • Access officials report a significant increase in requests over the past two years.
  • Delegated authority is diffuse. The new delegation order implemented in 2009 extends authority for one exemption to the coordinator, but the approval process remains protracted.
  • Large staff turnover (50 percent) had a negative effect on compliance.
  • Narrow interpretations of requests led to many responses to requests of “no records found.”
  • Extensions taken under section 9(1)(b) accounted for 93 percent of extensions overall: 61 percent were for more than 90 days.
  • Public Safety Canada applies the necessary exemptions when responses to consultation requests are delayed.
  • The institution submitted the required notices of extensions of more than 30 days to the Office of the Information Commissioner 82 percent of the time.
  • The number of administrative complaints decreased over three years. The number of resolved complaints decreased over the same period.

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

Number of requests carried over from 2007–2008
59
Number of new requests
235
Number of requests completed
241
Deemed refusal rate
8.5%*
Average time to complete a request (in days)
75
Number of consultation requests
198
Number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner
18
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
6.5
 

* 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

Public Safety Canada achieved a deemed refusal rate of 8.5 percent for 2008–2009. This is a noteworthy achievement in its own right, since the volume of consultation requests Public Safety Canada received was 84 percent of its request volume. During the report card interview, access to information officials noted that the number of requests it receives has grown substantially over the past several years. The 2008–2009 deemed refusal rate is also a considerable improvement from the grades the institution’s predecessor, Emergency Preparedness Canada, received in the past.

The authority to sign off on release packages remains with the deputy minister, the associate deputy minister, all assistant deputy ministers, and other senior officials, as set out in the delegation order. The average completion time of 75 days reflects a protracted approval process. Public Safety Canada subsequently gave authority for one type of exemption to the access coordinator but is still very clearly of the view that senior managers are the best placed to approve release packages.

A 50 percent turnover in staff had a negative impact on Public Safety Canada’s ability to process files efficiently. Access officials reported that training new staff was time-intensive, and it resulted in an increased workload for the remaining staff.

Narrow interpretations of requests led to many responses of “no records found,” when, according to access officials, there would have been responsive records had the request been interpreted more broadly. The access to information office challenged such narrow interpretations and provided training to help employees respond to access requests within the spirit of the Act.

The access to information office uses time extensions under paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Act in fewer than five percent of cases. However, Public Safety Canada officials said that they often consult other federal institutions within the public safety portfolio (93 percent of all extensions were taken under paragraph 9(1)(b) of the Access to Information Act), as well as with other federal, provincial and municipal institutions, which is often time consuming: 61 percent of the extensions taken to consult with other institutions were for more than 90 days. In light of this, Public Safety Canada has adopted a firm stance concerning consultations it sends to other institutions when the other institution fails to respond in time: Public Safety Canada will, when reasonable, use its own judgment and apply the necessary exemptions itself.

Public Safety Canada has considerably improved its compliance with the Access to Information Act, since receiving a failing grade in 2005. With the number of requests growing, however, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) encourages Public Safety Canada to monitor its progress and ensure it can maintain, or even improve, its compliance.

Recommendations

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the minister revisit the delegation order to ensure greater autonomy of the access to information coordinator in the release of records and eliminate additional levels of approval.

Response

The minister revised the delegations in 2009. The new delegations clarify the administrative authorities for the access to information coordinator. The access to information coordinator was also given the authority to exempt personal information in accordance with section 19 of the Act.

However, Public Safety Canada believes that the appropriate officials to exercise delegated authority for most exemptions are the assistant deputy ministers responsible for the subject matter of the records.

Public Safety Canada has improved the timeliness of its approval process by tracking approvals much more closely. This has resulted in fewer delays at the approvals stage.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Safety Canada strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Response

The department has made significant improvements since receiving a grade of “F” in 2005, and has sustained 90 percent on-time responses over the past two reporting years. Public Safety Canada shares the goal of reducing deemed refusals to zero and will continue to examine and refine its processes with the ultimate goal of full compliance. Public Safety Canada will resume the practice of making timely access to information performance a commitment in the performance management agreement of each executive in the department. Public Safety Canada will establish processes for ensuring accountability for the completeness of records retrieval and the interpretation of requests.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Safety Canada develop protocols with other federal institutions to facilitate timely consultations.

Response

Informal arrangements are already in place with many of the departments with which we consult on a regular basis. Public Safety Canada will examine the feasibility of developing such protocols with agencies in the public safety portfolio, and departments with which we regularly consult.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Safety Canada develop a training plan for its employees.

Response

Public Safety Canada values access to information training and sees it as an essential component in improving the quality and timeliness of our access to information process. This fiscal year, the coordination of access to information training sessions is being managed through the department’s Learning and Development Centre, ensuring the widest possible dissemination of the availability of this training within the institution. Since July 2009, the Access to Information and Privacy Unit has delivered training to 113 employees, 80 of whom received access training.

The materials that form the basis of our training are also available to all departmental employees on our intranet site. Training for departmental officials having delegated responsibilities is available upon request. Employees of the unit continually attend training, through Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and other avenues, and funding for the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Certification Program is also made available. The unit has committed to delivering 10 awareness sessions over the current year (2009–2010).

5.The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Safety 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 unit has procedures in place to ensure notification to the Office of the Information Commissioner of extensions beyond 30 days. The time extension template includes a copy to the Office of the Information Commissioner. Public Safety Canada was unaware of any deficiency in this area until receipt of the OIC’s report. A reminder of this statutory requirement has been issued to all employees of the unit.

 

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

Public Safety Canada reported that it completed 10 of the requests it received in 2008–2009 after their due date. This graph shows that the institution closed four of them in 30 or fewer days, five of them in 31 to 60 days and one in more than 90 days.

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 Public Safety Canada reported to have taken in 2008–2009. Public Safety Canada supplied this information in the notices it sent to the OIC under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. Public Safety Canada submitted the notices 82 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 Public Safety Canada in the last three reporting periods: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that Public Safety Canada delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about Public Safety 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 total number of deemed refusal complaints decreased over the three-year period (15; 2; 2). All of the deemed refusal complaints were resolved in 2006–2007 and 2007–2008.

Time extension complaints

Time extension complaints

The number of time extension complaints decreased from 2007–2008 to 2008–2009 (36; 11), while the number of resolved time extension complaints decreased in all three years (15; 8; 3).


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 Public Safety 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 30 3 14 0 47
Refusals 1 3 5 2 11
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 31 6 19 2 58
2007–2008
Administrative 10 7 21 0 38
Refusals 7 4 1 7 19
Cabinet confidences 0 1 0 4 5
Total 17 12 22 11 62
2008–2009
Administrative 3 2 8 0 13
Refusals 1 1 1 1 4
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 1 1
Total 4 3 9 2 18

The number of administrative complaints decreased over three years (47; 38; 13), as did the overall number of resolved complaints (31; 17; 4).

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