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Appendix B: Status Update from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat on Systemic Issues

OIC Recommendation 1

That the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) assess the extent to which institutions implement the best practices on the delegation of powers, duties and functions pursuant to section 73 of the Access to Information Act with the view to achieving appropriate, efficient and transparent delegation orders.

Context
In the Commissioner's April 2010 Special Report to Parliament it was noted that the Commissioner's office uncovered oral evidence that delegation orders have a direct and significant impact on the ability of institutions to meet the statutory deadlines for responding to requests for information. The Report also referenced the best practices developed by the Treasury Board Secretariat. Among the 18 best practices, one recommends that ATIP Coordinators be delegated full authority by the head of the institution for the administration of the Act.

TBS Response

In the spring of 2010 TBS issued a number of best practices, which included the following regarding delegation:

  • That the Access to Information Coordinator be given full delegated authority by the head of the institution for the administration of the Act; and
  • That the head of the institution delegate functions as far down within the Access to Information Office as possible. For example, extension and third party notices can be delegated to Access to Information Officers, as well as to the Coordinator.

In response to the Commissioner's recommendation, TBS reviewed the delegation orders of 24 institutions that were assessed by the Office of the Information Commissioner for the period 2008-2009 as part of its Report Card initiative. It also analyzed statistical data provided by the same institutions.

It was found that in most institutions ATIP Coordinators have full delegation. It was also found that delegation by itself is not a determinant factor in meeting statutory timelines. Delegation is, however, an important element and can eliminate unnecessary levels of approval.

To ensure that delegation is properly addressed, the Policy on Access to Information requires heads of institutions to consider whether any of their powers, duties or functions under the Act should be delegated. Furthermore, the Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act requires heads to respect certain principles when delegating, such as:

  • Heads can only designate officers and employees of their government institution;
  • Powers, duties and functions are delegated to positions identified by title, not to individuals identified by name;
  • Persons with delegated authorities are to be well informed of their responsibilities;
  • Powers, duties and functions that have been delegated may not be further delegated; and
  • The delegation order is to be reviewed when circumstances surrounding the delegations have changed.

OIC Recommendation 2

That, as part of the Management Accountability Framework, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat review current criteria to ensure that they are measuring the overall performance of federal institutions in meeting their obligations under the Access to Information Act .

TBS Response

The Management Accountability Framework (MAF) sets out the Treasury Board Secretariat's expectations of senior public service managers in a number of areas for good public service management, including on the administration of the Access to Information Act.

Activities related to the Act's administration have been assessed under MAF since fiscal year 2005-2006. Assessments comprise a review and analysis of institutions' annual reports to Parliament, their Info Source chapters and a number of other reports to determine if institutions are providing complete, comprehensive and up-to-date descriptions of their functions, programs, activities and related information holdings.

This year, the Secretariat added new requirements that are focused on governance and capacity, which are intended to evaluate the ability of institutions to administer the ATIP program, including the way institutions are organized to respond to ATI requests, whether procedures are established for ATI specialists and program officials and whether training is being delivered and taken. Areas assessed are reviewed on an annual basis to ensure the continued effectiveness of MAF.

It is, however, important to note that MAF is not the only assessment tool. Parliament put in place a mechanism to ensure accountability for the administration of the Access to Information Act. Section 72 of the Act requires the head of each government institution to present to Parliament an annual report on the administration of the Act within their institution. TBS also collects, in accordance with the Act, statistical data to assess institutions compliance. Data collection will significantly be expanded in the coming year. Further details on this point are provided in the TBS response to recommendations 3 and 4.

TBS is committed to continue working with the Office of the Information Commissioner and institutions in order to ensure the effectiveness of reporting and compliance activities.

OIC Recommendation 3

That the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat collect annual statistics in accordance with Recommendations 3, 4 and 5 included in the 2007-2008 Special Report.

OIC Recommendation 4

That the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, together with relevant institutions, assess the magnitude of consultations between federal institutions and the impact of such consultations on institutions' workloads with a view to allocating appropriate resources for this function.

TBS Response to Recommendations 3 and 4

TBS has been collecting statistical data from institutions on their application of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act since the Acts came into force in 1983. Data is consolidated and published yearly in the Info Source Bulletin.

Beginning in April 2011, TBS will be expanding its requirements for the collection of annual Access to Information statistical data. Institutions will be required to compile and report annually on new data elements, such as number of pages processed, timelines, extensions, consultations and delays. The new data will provide a better understanding of the workload of institutions, the complexity of requests, causes of delay and will enable TBS to better assess compliance of institutions with the Access to Information Act. The results of the new data elements will be published in fall 2012 edition of the Info Source Bulletin.

TBS will continue to work closely with institutions to assist them with the transition to the new data collection requirements.

OIC Recommendation 5

That the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, in collaboration with relevant institutions and agencies, develop and implement, as a matter of urgency, an integrated human resources action plan to address the current shortage of access to information staff.

TBS Response to Recommendation 5

The Access to Information and Privacy Community is comprised of dedicated professionals who strive to provide good service to Canadians.

TBS has actively been supporting the ATIP Community in a variety of ways. It meets with the Community regularly, develops tools and guidance and offers a wide range of awareness sessions on ATIP-related topics. Since April 1, 2008, 134 sessions have been delivered, with 1,617 participants attending. Another 26 sessions are planned for this coming year.

In addition, the Secretariat launched last spring an initiative to address the recruitment and retention challenges of the Community to ensure it has the capacity to deliver ATIP services now and in the future.

With key stakeholders and several representatives from ATIP offices across the federal public service, generic organizational models, work descriptions, and competencies to standardize the work across the public service are being developed. These tools will form the basis for the launch of a collective staffing process, as well as the design and implementation of a broader community development and learning strategy.

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