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Report Cards 2008-2009

Year


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Health Canada

Recommendations

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the deputy minister of Health Canada continue to take a strong leadership role in establishing a culture of compliance throughout the institution. Such a role requires the unwavering endorsement of the minister.

Response

Since February 2009, senior management at Health Canada has been fully engaged in access to information issues in the department. Senior Management Board’s endorsement of an access to information action plan for the department, and its continual support of the access to information function, clearly illustrate that access to information is a priority for the department.

Since February 2009, Health Canada’s senior management has been actively supporting the transformation of access to information at Health Canada and ensuring that key compliance issues are being addressed in a truly transformative and collaborative fashion.

Follow-up

Building on a transformational and collaborative approach, the Department’s Senior Management Board’s endorsed the ATI Action Plan in June 2010, with the goal of achieving 90% compliance with the Access to Information Act by November 2011. The Department has implemented the ATI Action Plan and is seeing progress against milestones and targets.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Health Canada strictly follow the delegated authority of the access to information coordinator and eliminate additional levels of approval. 

Response

Health Canada continues to follow the delegated authority of the access to information coordinator and has eliminated additional levels of approval.

Health Canada eliminated the HI-SENS approval process. This practice has been replaced with a notification process that results in overall improved compliance.

Follow-up

Health Canada continues to follow the delegated authority of the access to information coordinator. The Hi-SENS approval process that was replaced by the notification process has resulted in increased timeliness and improved compliance. As part of the ATI Action Plan, Health Canada is working to reduce the number of files tagged Hi-SENS, further improving timeliness. 

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

Response

Health Canada continues to address its backlog of access requests via a two-fold approach:

  • Health Canada has maintained its concentrated effort on the closure of all outstanding 2007 files. It began the fiscal year with 73 outstanding files and now has only 17 files left to complete.
  • Health Canada has established a fast-track request processing stream, and will be dedicating a resource to access to information timelines management.

These efforts will decrease the number of new deemed refusals and will provide the continued concentrated effort required to tackle the growth of the backlog.

Follow-up

As part of the ATI Action Plan, endorsed by Senior Management Board in June 2010, Health Canada implemented an ATI Backlog Reduction Action Plan with the goal of eliminating the backlog by March 31, 2011. To date, the Division has shown success in attaining the set targets, and expect to close all outstanding 2007 backlog files by the end of October 2010.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Health Canada document and review the criteria it uses for extensions to ensure that the extensions are reasonable and legitimate.

Response

Health Canada has examined and reviewed the criteria it uses when invoking extensions to ensure that they are reasonable and legitimate.

Health Canada has implemented a graduated approval process for the invoking of extensions, and requires that its staff both document and justify any time extensions taken.

This review was undertaken last year and the focus on the appropriate taking of extensions continues to be a focus of Health Canada.

This recommendation is not necessary.

Follow-up

Health Canada continues to document and review the criteria it uses for extensions to ensure that the extensions are reasonable and legitimate.

5. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Health Canada identify and implement the necessary enhancement to records management systems to ensure a quick and proper search of records in response to an access to information request.

Response

Health Canada is in the process of implementing a number of departmental records management initiatives. These would support more efficient search and retrieval responses for records related to access to information requests and include the following:

  • a storage management strategy, in line with the Government of Canada information management guidelines;
  • testing of a powerful search engine in January 2010 that, if supported, may increase office of primary interest search capability;
  • building a new business enterprise software that has single instance storage and a potential file classification system for data over the next two years; and
  • implementing the Directive on Recordkeeping announced by Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat/ Library and Archives Canada.
Follow-up

Health Canada’s IM Action Plan is at the heart of an IM Strategy/Plan which is under development. The plan contains the following management initiatives to improve the overall management of information resulting in more accurate and timely response to access to information requests:

  • Updating HC IM suite of policy instruments
  • IM awareness, learning and engagement activities
  • an E-storage management strategy
  • Implementation of an Enterprise Content Management Solution (1200 user branch pilot is currently in progress. Departmental expansion is under consideration)
  • Testing continues on the implementation and use of an Enterprise Information Search engine that, if supported, may increase our searching capability
  • Work continues on the departmental implementation of the GoC-wide Directive on Recordkeeping to improve our understanding of our physical information holdings.

6. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Health Canada strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Response

Health Canada continues to strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Since the fall of 2008, the department has seen an 85 percent increase in files closed year-to-date, compared to last fiscal, closing 1,072 files between April 1, 2009, and January 8, 2010, compared to 579 files the previous year.

The access to information office has also experienced a significant drop, from 50 percent to 10 percent, in turnover of operations staff (projected to be 20 percent by year-end).

Health Canada developed the three-phase Access to Information Transformation Action Plan. Implementation began in the fall of 2008.

The action plan addresses challenges in meeting legislative requirements and includes governance of access to information at Health Canada, partnerships with both internal clients and other government institutions, supporting release readiness and teamwork, integration of collaborations with offices of primary interest, and the need to strengthen the access to information operations workforce.

Follow-up

Health Canada’s ATI Transformation initiatives, ATI Action Plan and ATI Backlog Reduction Action Plan aim to reduce the deemed refusal rate by eliminating the backlog of previous fiscal years, and preventing new late files from going into deemed refusal. The target deemed refusal rate is 15% by end of the 2010-2011 fiscal year and to 10% by November 2011.

The action plan continues to address challenges in meeting legislative requirements including improved governance of access to information at Health Canada, partnerships with internal clients and collaboration with other government institutions, supporting release readiness and teamwork, integration of collaborations with offices of primary interest, and strengthening the access to information operations workforce through targeted recruitment.

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