A mitigation study proposed by the ATIP Directorate outlined a four pronged approach to addressing ATIP’s challenges. It includes specific actions in staffing and backlog; training; awareness and communications; and mitigation through efficiencies. In 2010-2011, staffing focused on staffing a backlog unit, bolstering capacity in the processing units, and building capacity for training, awareness and privacy governance.
The following are some of the practices CRA has undertaken to improve the timely delivery of our access to information program:
Promotion of informal treatment of requests
To improve the efficiency of its operations, the ATIP Directorate began monitoring the CRA’s formal requests to identify opportunities for increasing informal methods of access. We solicited the input of all the members of our Agency Management Committee towards developing a plan to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our processes. We have further strengthened our partnerships within the Agency by continuing to work with stakeholders to enhance existing policies and processes for routinely providing access on an informal basis.
Expanded outreach training
A comprehensive training strategy was completed in 2010-2011. Audience-specific products were introduced to reinforce roles and responsibilities as they relate to the ATIA. The ATIP Directorate greatly expanded training among CRA staff on the ATIP function. One of the goals of the training sessions was to educate the CRA staff on the intent of the Access to Information Act and their roles and responsibilities in regards to providing access to government records informally. The training sessions also stressed the importance of providing relevant records to ATIP in a timely fashion and with comprehensive recommendations, which serve to expedite our processing times and ensure that the legislation is applied appropriately.
Improved public awareness
A communications strategy was completed in 2010-2011. One of ATIP’s priorities was to ensure that the public is aware of how to access information and all the channels available to them. The ATIP Directorate reviewed its existing Internet presence and determined where change was required. The Directorate revamped this page and now:
- Provides the public with general information about formal ATIA request processes;
- Highlights how to request information formally and informally; and,
- Includes useful links.
This increased visibility should help requesters provide CRA with the necessary information to help CRA process their requests as efficiently as possible.
New internal websites were also created to raise awareness of and reinforce the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities within CRA.
Amending internal forms
We implemented a revised internal tasking form in October 2010 to improve the search and locate process by providing record holders with easier to understand instructions. The form was revisited in January 2011 to further improve it by addressing all issues that stakeholders have encountered and will continue to evolve in order to meet our stakeholders’ needs.
We bolstered capacity in our processing units by staffing 13 full time positions in our satellite offices. Our staffing plan determined that the demand for ATIP professionals is less in the regions than in the national capital region (headquarters) and that the retention of such professionals is much higher in the regional offices. In addition, the vast technical expertise of regional employees provided a wealth of experience to staff from.
Additional resources to an Intake/Triage Unit
An intake unit was established in 2009. The intake unit is the first point at which requests are received before distribution to processing units for complete analysis and processing. The unit is comprised of personnel who are responsible for undertaking all registration of requests, clarifications and acknowledgements of requests. They ensure that before a request is forwarded to a processing unit, that the request be complete, clear and ready to process. A senior analyst was added to the unit in 2010 to expedite the registration of files. Roles and responsibilities were redefined in the intake unit to ensure that files were processed more efficiently.
Streamlined approval process
The CRA designation order has been revised for ATIA to expand the authorities assigned to Access to Information and Privacy Directorate managers. This was done to streamline final approval processes for formal requests under the ATIA. This meant that the managers were able to sign-off on most files without a need for review at the Assistant Director levels. This significantly reduced the bottle-neck effect at the senior management levels. In order to reduce the “bottle neck” effect of a large inventory of files ready to be reviewed at the management level, new technical reviewer positions were introduced in the directorate’s processing units. These reviewers were able to analyze and review the files that have been completed by junior and senior analysts. By completing this first level review and addressing any possible issues and risks to the files (e.g. ensuring that extensions are properly documented) at the ATIP reviewer level, the time that would be taken by management to complete a final review and sign off process has been greatly reduced.
Revised priorities to address backlog files
The ATIP Directorate has developed a comprehensive redress plan to eliminate the backlog inventory by March 2012. A new unit dedicated to processing the backlog and complaints was created in July 2010. A workload disposal plan and a business case to secure resources to support elimination of the backlog were approved by senior management in September 2010. The ATIP Directorate closely monitored results against set targets developed within a workload elimination plan. The resources received through the mitigation study have greatly improved performance. The 2010-2011 backlog reduction target (for both access and privacy files) was exceeded by over 30%. Our total carry forward inventory was down by 183 requests from April 2010. For the first time since 2006-2007, the number of requests completed exceeded the number of requests received within a fiscal year.
Documentation of system processes
The CRA has developed and fully implemented a new electronic redaction system for processing ATIP files electronically. In addition to the sustainable development benefits, the system enhances the processing of ATIP requests by incorporating more efficient and time saving processes within it.
The ATIP Directorate also completed an analysis to evaluate potential workload management IT solutions. This will ultimately result in modifications to the ATIP Directorate’s existing solution. The long-term goal is to have a sustainable solution that allows ATIP to maximize its workload efficiencies and allow improved statistical analysis through improved reporting capabilities. A solution is slated to be in place by 2012.
The ATIP Directorate mapped existing processes in order to identify and 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 next year. Optimal processes are being documented in manuals and will be utilized in training.
These foundation pieces will allow for a comprehensive training strategy that will provide new employees with better tools and to promote better consistency across the ATIP Directorate. Moreover, it will support executive decision-making and allow the ATIP Directorate to identify process solutions aimed at improving the CRA’s ability to effectively process ATIA requests.
Improved internal reporting
ATIP introduced dashboard reporting. A dashboard is a comprehensive monthly reporting tool that provides ATIP senior management with a snapshot of the overall status of the ATIP Directorate’s processing of requests. It allows management to have a better understanding of the challenges and issues facing the Directorate in order to make more informed executive decisions.