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Report Cards 2008-2009
1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the deputy minister of Environment Canada allocate sufficient resources on a permanent basis to stabilize and ensure a full access to information staff complement and meet the requirements of the Access to Information Act.
Environment Canada recognizes that in order to meet the requirements of the Access to Information Act, financial resources and qualified access to information personnel are required. Despite ongoing efforts, the access to information office has been unable to fill all its vacant positions through selection processes due to high staff turnover (retirement, relocation, promotions in other government departments) and a government-wide shortage of access to information personnel. Recognizing this situation, the Corporate Secretariat has designed and implemented the ATIP Professional Development Program while pursuing ongoing staffing actions. Environment Canada is also using the services of consultants to process requests.
Two PM-04 senior advisors were hired in November 2009 and one junior policy analyst was hired on January 4, 2010. Four junior analysts recruited through the ATIP Professional Development Program are expected to be in place by early February 2010. A new selection process is being launched to increase capacity at the PM-04 level.
Environment Canada is continuing its efforts to fill vacant positions within the ATIP Secretariat. Over the last three months, Environment Canada has filled two administrative positions and one senior advisor position as a result of competitive processes. As selection processes at the senior advisor level continue to be largely unproductive, Environment Canada is focusing its efforts on recruiting through the department’s ATIP Professional Development Program.
The Department is encouraged by the results of the Professional Development Program to date. The ATIP Secretariat is already benefiting from the recruitment of four participants to the program in winter/spring 2010 and is awaiting the arrival of one additional recruit who will be joining the program shortly. Environment Canada is also preparing to launch an anticipatory staffing process which is expected to be posted in November 2010. Our intention is to create a pool of prequalified candidates to fill junior positions as participants in the developmental program progress to more senior positions within the program. Although we recognize that for the short term there will remain a gap in capacity at the Senior Advisor level, the department will reap long term benefits from this program as staff will have both a thorough knowledge of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and an in-depth knowledge of the Department. This is also a long-term measure that is aimed at improving recruitment and retention issues as well as addressing the succession planning needs within the ATIP Secretariat.
2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Environment Canada develop a clear plan to tackle the backlog of access requests.
Environment Canada recognizes the need to reduce the backlog of requests and has hired consultants to focus on processing older files. While progress has been made, this project will be ongoing, since many files require consultations with other government departments or third parties.
Until Environment Canada has sufficient personnel to take over the processing of the backlog files, it will continue to use the services of consultants to accomplish this task.
Despite a significant increase in the number of Access to Information requests received this fiscal year to date, Environment Canada has successfully reduced the number of backlog requests. Of the remaining access requests in our backlog, the vast majority are awaiting consultation responses or are in the final review stage. The average completion time for new requests has also decreased this fiscal year to date. In order to sustain this momentum, Environment Canada is continuing to employ the services of consultants to supplement the work of departmental staff.
3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Environment Canada identify and implement the necessary enhancements to records management systems to ensure a quick and proper search of records in response to an access to information request.
Records Management Services is in the rebuilding process at Environment Canada.
A new chief of records management services has been hired for February 1, 2010. Policies and procedures, awareness sessions and training are being rolled out across the department. A SharePoint technology-based document collaboration and storage system is currently being implemented across the department.
The Records Management Services of Environment Canada are in the process of re-organising. A move to create a more professional service, aligned with the Library Services is underway. As well a Program to implement projects that will meet the requirements of the Directive on Record Keeping has been launched. This will include the piloting of Sharepoint 2010 as an Electronic Document and Records Management system of the future for EC. An Inventory of all Environment Canada records holdings, an updated File Plan and other projects will all combine to improve Records Management and align Environment Canada with the Directive by the 2014 deadline, contingent upon full resourcing.
An internal awareness campaign to promote best practices in records management and ATIP has been undertaken. As a result, Environment Canada has significantly improved its records retrieval time from the 2008-2009 reporting period. At mid year, 2010-2011, the average retrieval time for Environment Canada programs was 15 days.
4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Environment Canada comply with the Act and notify the Office of the Information Commissioner of all the extensions it takes for more than 30 days.
Environment Canada has an established procedure to send copies of extensions of more than 30 days to the Office of the Information Commissioner.
Particular attention will be given to ensure compliance with the established procedures.
Environment Canada has strengthened its procedures to ensure that copies of all extension letters of more than 30 days are sent to the Office of the Information Commissioner. A log has been created to track extension letters that are sent to the Office of the Information Commissioner. In order to ensure it is complete, the log is verified on a monthly basis. It is our hope that this strengthened process has eliminated the administrative errors.