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Privy Council Office

Part A:       Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year (2009-2010)
1. Number of requests carried over: 121
2. Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year— in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year 46
Part B:       New requests received in fiscal year 2010-2011 (Exclude requests included in Part A)
3. Number of requests received during the fiscal period 647
4.A How many were completed during fiscal year 2010-2011 within the statutory 30-day time limit? 409
4.B How many were completed during fiscal year 2010-2011 beyond the statutory 30-day time limit where no extension was claimed? 0
4.C How long after the expiry of the statutory 30-day time
limit did it take to complete the request where no extension was claimed?
  1-30 days: 0
  31-60 days: 0
  61-90 days: 0
  Over 91 days: 0
5. How many were extended pursuant to section 9? 210
6.A How many were completed during fiscal year 2010-2011 within the extended time limit? 143
6.B How many were completed during fiscal year 2010-2011 after exceeding the extended time limit? 1
6.C How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?  
  1-30 days: 0
  31-60 days: 1
  61-90 days: 0
  Over 91 days: 0
7. Number of requests received in 2010-2011 that were carried over to 2011-2012? 94
8. As of April 1st, 2011, how many requests which were received in the 2010-2011 reporting period are in a deemed-refusal situation? 0
Part C:       Workload
9. What is the number of pages reviewed for requests completed in:  
  2008-2009? 51,419
  2009-2010? 75,182
  2010-2011? 79,980
10. What is the number of consultations requests received  in:  
  2008-2009? 403
  2009-2010? 353
  2010-2011? 490
Part D:       Contributing Factors
11. Please describe the most significant issues that affected your institution’s ability to respond to access to information requests in a timely manner (within 30 days and/or statutory timelines). These may include:
  • Requests for large volume of records

  • Approval process of access requests

  • Difficulties to retrieve records (OPI turnaround time)

  • Staff shortages / resources

  • Requests filed in bulk

  • Consultations with other institutions

  • Others

  • As a central agency, PCO controls records that are often complex and multi-departmental in scope. Considerations of national security, international affairs, federal-provincial relations and the government’s decision-making process also routinely arise in the review of PCO records, and Treasury Board policy requires departments to consult on such exemptions. Consultations are also mandatory for the certification of Cabinet confidences, commonly resident in PCO records. In as much as it drives the necessity for consultations and time extensions, the very nature of the records held by the Privy Council Office affects the perceived timeliness of its response to requests.

  • The OIC itself has rightly identified a key impediment to timeliness: consultations between organizations. The OIC publication Out of Time: Special Report to Parliament 2008–2009 on Systemic Issues Affecting Access to Information in Canada states that “the volume of these mandatory consultations has grown over the years such that it now accounts for a significant part of some institutions’ workloads…As a result, many institutions no longer quickly respond to consultation requests. This in turn affects the speed at which the consulting institution can close the associated access requests and release the information to requesters. The conundrum of the dependency between consulting and consulted organizations was also brought to light, as was the lack of incentive for one party to respond to the other by deadline. This ongoing issue impacts the timely performance of the Privy Council Office.

  • The shortage of qualified personnel in access to information is a recognized issue across government. In this “seller’s market”, departments effectively compete among themselves for a limited pool of experienced ATIP workers. Rising workload, the retirement wave, and the 2006 expansion of institutions subject to the Act have increased this demand for expertise. Despite undertaking 80 staffing actions since 2007, PCO has yet to reach its full complement of 26 access to information FTEs. Skill shortages impact an organization’s ability to respond to requests in a timely manner.

  • During the reporting year, ATI requests to the PCO increased 51%. Consultations sent to the PCO from other government organizations rose almost 40%. The number of full-time equivalents on staff to manage these business streams rose just 10%. Since such substantive fluctuations in workload cannot be fully anticipated, they undermine strategic and HR planning, tax resources, and may affect the ability to respond to requests in a timely manner. 

12. Please describe any practices or policies developed/undertaken by your institution to improve the timely delivery of your access to information program and, where possible, indicate how successful these practices/policies have been. These may include:
  • Informal treatment of requests

  • Streamlined approval process

  • Partial release of records

  • Fast track process for common requests

  • Others

  • In regard to the consultation process, PCO complies with OIC recommendations. The PCO-ATIP staff contact a consulted organization first to mutually determine what length of extension is appropriate, and they follow up as the deadline approaches. As well, all notification letters and final letters of response to an applicant consistently detail their right to complain to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

  • Best practices in reconciling the consultation process with the goal of timeliness are of primary interest to the department. The PCO closely monitors reviews, reports and publications of the Office of the Information Commissioner for recommendations on best practices. In the reporting year, the PCO-ATIP Director undertook informal discussions with the Department of Justice Canada, whose best practices were cited by the OIC in its 2008-2009 Report Card. The PCO-ATIP also met with ATIP representatives from key consulting departments in September 2010 to promote a timely consultation process.

  • As PCO stated to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in June 2010, “the Privy Council Office does not categorize requests, or label specific files for any kind of special handling. It processes all requests in the same manner.” This process is in full compliance with OIC recommendations.

  • Senior officials of the Privy Council Office are fully engaged in oversight and support to the access to information process. During the reporting year, the Clerk of the Privy Council met with the Information Commissioner of Canada to discuss ATI issues. The Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, maintains a meaningful dialogue with senior OIC officials to address concerns and promote compliance with the Act.

  • In line with the duty to assist, PCO-ATIP staff serve clients in a prompt and courteous manner. They keep requesters informed of the progress of their requests and engage their views by telephone and by letter.   

  • In spring 2010, the department brought into service a significantly upgraded version of its case management software. Its improved processing, tracking, and statistical functions will positively impact both timely delivery to clients and reporting to stakeholders.

  • The PCO secured additional floor space adjacent to one of two previous access to information worksites in Ottawa, Ontario. Consolidation of all ATI staff in one location has streamlined workflow, promoting a timely response to requesters.

Part E:       Completion Time
13. What is the average completion time for all requests completed in 2010-2011?
132 days.
Part F:        Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act
14. Please attach your institution’s completed Report on the Access to Information (Form TBS/SCT 350-62) for 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. For institutions on a fiscal year other than April 1st-March 31st, include any supplemental reports where available.