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Report Cards


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3. OIC commitments

New commitments

Time extensions to prevent interference with the institution’s operations due to a search through or for a large volume of records.

During the report cards process, we noted an important variance in institutions’ interpretation and application of paragraph 9(1) a). The last guidance the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) offered on the application of this paragraph was in 1999. Given the increasing use of this type of extension and the length of time often claimed, we feel that it is time to clarify our interpretation of the meaning of “large number of records,” and “unreasonably interfere with operations of the government institution” in the course of our investigations in paragraph 9(1)(a).

Commitment 1

In 2010–2011, the Office of the Information Commissioner will publish a practice direction on time extensions taken by institutions under paragraph 9(1)(a).

Notices of extension

Institutions are required by law to notify the Information Commissioner of any time extension they take for more than 30 days. This notice informs us about the use and duration of time extensions longer than 30 days at the same time as requesters find out about the extension. As the individual report cards show, institutions do not consistently comply with this requirement. In addition, the notices that institutions send vary in terms of content and how they justify the extensions taken. More compliance and clarity are required to give this monitoring tool the usefulness which was intended by the legislator as a check and balance mechanism in the absence of legislated timelines. Some institutions suggested that the OIC introduce an electronic means of submitting the notices. This would allow institutions to keep better track of the notices they send and also mean they would be submitted and received in real time, not after the fact.

Commitment 2

The Office of the Information Commissioner will develop and implement by the end of 2010–2011 a template for the notification of time extensions that will provide sufficient information for monitoring their use and length. It will also explore ways to make the notification process more efficient by using electronic tools.

Commitment 3

In 2010–2011, the Office of the Information Commissioner will publish a practice direction on the notification procedures under paragraph 9(2) of the Act.

Commitment 4

The Office of the Information Commissioner will assign an official to review and assess the extension notices that institutions file with the OIC, and will carry out follow-up actions, as required.

Follow-up on previous commitments

Classification of complaints

The OIC committed to reviewing the disposition categories it uses for closed complaints to provide a more accurate picture of institutional performance. Following a consultation with various stakeholders, including access to information coordinators and users, the OIC will implement the revised disposition categories for fiscal year 2010–2011.

Releasing information under the act

This year we conducted a preliminary measurement on a small sample of refusal complaints that were closed with a finding in 2009–2010 to determine whether the level of disclosure within institutions increased after the OIC intervened. The sample of files reviewed showed that, as a result of the investigation, the number of pages withheld in their entirety decreased by 35 percent and the number of pages fully released increased by 117 percent.

Therefore, starting in April 2010, we will routinely capture data in investigation files to track the overall degree of disclosure subsequent to complaints submitted to the OIC. In particular, we will track the release of additional pages and the timing of the release.

Report cards process

To be as open and transparent as possible, the OIC committed to publishing a three-year plan for report cards. The plan we published in July 2009 sets out the report cards process for the three fiscal years from 2008–2009 to 2010–2011 as well as a planned systemic investigation into delays and time extensions. This plan will be updated in April 2010 to take into account recently announced budgetary restraints and reporting burden on institutions. The scope of the systemic investigation will also be revised in light of recent allegations of political interference with the processing of access requests.

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