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Report Cards 2008-2009

Year


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Canada Revenue Agency

Recommendations

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Minister of National Revenue amend the delegation order to ensure greater autonomy of the access to information coordinator.

Response 

CRA recognizes that the delegation order may lead to the assumption that all those listed in the schedules exercise their delegations. However, in practice, those who exercise this delegation are limited to those directly involved in access to information operations, namely, the access to information director, assistant directors and managers, and the assistant commissioners of the Pacific and Quebec regions, the two regions where CRA’s access to information satellite offices are located.

The access to information office will review the delegation order in light of the OIC’s comments to determine whether it should be amended. Following this review, the office will bring forward the analysis to senior management for a decision regarding appropriate delegations. The OIC will then be provided with our assessment for their feedback.

Follow-up 

The ATIP office reviewed the delegation order in light of the OIC’s comments. In April 2010, the Minister signed revised delegation orders for both the Access to Information Act (ATIA) and the Privacy Act (PA). The amended delegation orders were included in the CRA’s Annual Reports to Parliament on access to Information, and Privacy, respectively. The changes included minor amendments for accuracy, the removal of authorities granted to Deputy Assistant Commissioners, and an expansion of the authorities assigned to Access to Information and Privacy Directorate managers. The latter was done to streamline final approval processes for formal requests under the ATIA and PA.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency review and continue to document the criteria it uses for extensions taken under paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Access to Information Act to ensure that the extensions are reasonable and legitimate. 

Response 

CRA agrees that extensions taken under paragraph 9(1)(a) should be reasonable and legitimate, and will continue to explore the means of reducing the use of these extensions.

The access to information office recognizes that extensions of greater length were claimed in 2008–2009; however, the use of extensions is in large part attributable to the exponential growth in the page volume of requests over the past several years. In the first six months of the current fiscal year, for instance, the pages equivalent to the access requests received exceeded one million—greater than the total pages (more than 650,000) received in 2008–2009.

CRA believes that putting aside other critical work in order to direct all possible efforts to avoid time extensions would interfere unreasonably with the processing of other requests and addressing other legislated requirements.

It should also be noted that the use of extensions under section 9 in such circumstances has been legitimized by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat in Appendix A of Implementation Report No. 67, which states the following:

“The interference with your institution’s operations may be considered ‘unreasonable’ if processing the request within 30 days would require … such a high proportion of the resources of the ATIP office that it would have a significant negative impact on the processing of other requests.”

The access to information office will scrutinize the use of paragraph 9(1)(a) to ensure the extensions are reasonable and legitimate, and to examine whether improvements can be made to existing processes and procedures to expedite the processing of requests. In particular, access to information officials will consult with the OIC to discuss ways to mitigate the impact of bulk requests, which currently strain our operations and impact our ability to comply with the Act within legislated timeframes. Moreover, the access office will closely monitor the effectiveness of new initiatives, such as the introduction of an intake unit, to make any necessary adjustments to its operations.

Follow-up 

The ATIP office has begun implementing measures to ensure that extensions taken under paragraph 9(1)(a) are reasonable and legitimate, and that extensions taken are properly documented.

A redress plan to address the CRA’s operational challenges has been prepared. Measures related to staffing, training, and process efficiencies are intended to reduce the use of extensions. To date the following actions have been completed:

  1. A business processing unit has been created to map existing processes in order to maximize efficiencies. The intake and search and locate phases of request production have been mapped, and processes are being revised to eliminate inefficiencies. The remaining three phases of production (analysis, record and preparation, and approval) will be reviewed and revised by April 2011.
  2. Manuals for ATIP analysts are being reviewed and revised, and include content outlining how to document extensions. Training for analysts will be provided by April 2011.
  3. The IT tracking system has been reviewed, and a preliminary options analysis (POA) to implement an optimal solution has been prepared by the CRA’s IT Branch. As well, changes are being made to the current IT tracking system to ensure extensions are properly documented and entered on a mandatory basis. An action plan to roll out the IT system will be completed by December 2010.
  4. Technical reviewers were added to the processing units to review the quality of files in July 2010. These reviewers will ensure that extensions are properly documented in ATIP analyst files before they are approved.

The ATIP office will be closely monitoring the effectiveness of these measures. A performance dashboard has been prepared, and performance data will be provided to the ATIP Director on a monthly basis beginning in November 2010.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency develop a clear plan to tackle the backlog of access requests.

Response 

CRA agrees with this recommendation, and notes that it has already taken concrete steps to address the backlog with notable success. In October 2009, the access to information office diverted two full-time employees and dedicated two additional temporary resources to processing the backlog. As a result of these measures, of the 920 backlog files noted in this report, 515 have been closed—a reduction of 56 percent.

Diverting resources within the office to address the backlog must continually be balanced with the need to respond to incoming requests. Within this context, the office will continue to explore innovative ways to reduce the backlog, including process and technology improvements. Towards this end, CRA will consult with other access to information offices across government to consider best practices for possible implementation within its office. CRA will also work with the OIC to seek innovative means to mitigate the impact of bulk requesters upon our operations.

In its review of the delegation order, the access to information office will explore the feasibility of expanding delegations within the office to expedite the processing of the backlog.

The office recognizes that reducing the backlog will, in part, depend on having the necessary staff to undertake the processing in a timely manner. Towards this end, the office will undertake the staffing processes outlined in its staffing plan to ensure vacancies are quickly filled with candidates from the resulting pools.

Success of these actions will be carefully monitored, and regular updates on progress will be provided to senior management.

Follow-up 

The ATIP Directorate has developed a comprehensive redress plan to eliminate the backlog of requests by March 2010. To date, the following measures in the plan have been implemented to support elimination of the backlog:

  1. A new unit was created to focus on the backlog (July 2010).
  2. Discussions were held with the OIC to prioritize the processing of backlog requests and complaints.
  3. A workload disposal plan to eliminate the backlog was prepared in September 2010 and reviewed by senior management.
  4. The CRA has allocated additional resources to the ATIP Directorate.
  5. The delegation order was amended to expand delegations within the ATIP office to expedite the processing of the backlog.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Response 

CRA will continue to strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate. Our continued efforts to reduce our backlog will, over time, result in a reduction in our deemed refusal rate. Given the exponential increase in pages being processed, however, CRA recognizes that progress towards this goal will be incremental. Under the circumstances, the access to information office will strive to ensure that the deemed refusal rate does not increase. 

By reducing the backlog, as outlined above, the office will incrementally reduce the deemed refusal rate. Within this context, the office will continue to explore innovative ways to maximize efficiencies through process, procedural and technology improvements. Towards this end, the CRA will consult with other offices across government to consider best practices for possible implementation within the office.

As well, in its review of the delegation order, the office will explore the feasibility of expanding delegations within the office to expedite the processing of requests.

The office recognizes that reducing the deemed refusal rate will hinge on ensuring it has the necessary staff to process requests in a timely manner. Towards this end, the office will undertake the staffing processes outlined in its staffing plan to ensure vacancies are quickly filled with candidates from the resulting pools.

Success of these actions will be carefully monitored, and regular updates on progress will be provided to senior management.

Follow-up 

The ATIP office has developed a comprehensive redress plan to address its operational challenges. Specific actions related to training, processing efficiencies, and staffing are intended to expedite the processing of files and to thereby reduce the CRA’s deemed refusal rate. To date, the following actions have been completed:

  1. A business processing unit has been created to map existing processes in order to maximize efficiencies. The intake, and search and locate phases of request production have been mapped, and processes are being revised to eliminate inefficiencies. The remaining three phases of production (analysis, record and preparation, and approval) will be reviewed and revised by April 2011. More efficient processes will be documented and rolled out between November 2010 and April 2011.
  2. Manuals for ATIP analysts have been reviewed and revised, and include content outlining how to document extensions. Training for analysts will be provided by April 2011.
  3. The IT tracking system has been reviewed, and a preliminary options analysis (POA) to implement an optimal solution has been prepared by the CRA’s IT Branch. As well, changes are being made to the current IT tracking system to support more efficient processing. An action plan to roll out the IT system will be completed by December 2010.
  4. Technical reviewers were added to the processing units to review the quality of files in July 2010. These reviewers will ensure that extensions are properly documented in ATIP analyst files before they are approved.

The ATIP office will be closely monitoring the effectiveness of these measures. A performance dashboard has been prepared, and performance data will be provided to the ATIP Director on a monthly basis beginning in November 2010. The ATIP Directorate has analyzed the key drivers impacting the ATIP environment and developed a comprehensive redress plan to address these pressures and to introduce efficiency measures.

5. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canada Revenue Agency comply with the Access to Information Act and notify the Office of the Information Commissioner of all the extensions it takes for more than 30 days. 

Response 

CRA fully agrees with this recommendation and will put further processes in place to ensure complete compliance with this recommendation. It is our understanding that the OIC calculated our compliance rate for 2008–2009 to be 85 percent; however, according to our records, our compliance rate is 91 percent. CRA will work with the OIC to clarify why the CRA and OIC calculations are based on different methodologies, in order to rectify this discrepancy.

The access to information office will consult with the OIC to ensure the reporting methodology used by both institutions is synchronized. As well, internal processes and procedures will be reviewed, and best practices will be implemented and communicated to staff through a variety of communication vehicles. CRA will implement necessary measures to ensure that it is fully compliant with the Act in this regard.

Follow-up

The CRA fully agrees with this recommendation and has taken action to ensure that the OIC is notified of all extensions for more than 30 days. The CRA has adjusted its process to ensure that any discrepancies between the compliance rate noted by the OIC (85%) and the CRA (91%) have been eliminated. Based on our records, the CRA is now fully compliant with this recommendation. In the event that discrepancies are raised, the CRA will continue to work with the OIC to identify and eliminate these discrepancies.

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