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Report Cards

Three-Year Plan Report Cards from 2008-2009 to 2010-2011

(Updated in June 2010 and May 2011)

Note: The Three-Year plan was first published in July 2009 to specify the scope of a systemic investigation and report cards to assess the federal government's compliance with the Access to Information Act over three successive years. The plan has been updated to reflect the milestones achieved in both Year One and Year Two to include adjustments which are detailed at the end of each section.

Responding to requests in a timely fashion is one of the cornerstones of the Access to Information Act (Act). This principle was reaffirmed a few years ago with the passage of the Federal Accountability Act and the introduction of a positive duty on federal institutions to assist requesters and respond without delay. The adage "access delayed is access denied" clearly articulates the importance of timely service delivery.

Over the years, this principle has been increasingly ignored. The magnitude of delays triggered the creation of the report cards in the 1990s. Throughout our report cards process, we observed that timeliness was no longer the norm. Of even greater concern was that it seemed it was no longer an ideal by which federal institutions are operating.

Through its three-year plan, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) will look at the root causes of this problem. Many compliance issues cannot be solved adequately when treated in isolation. This is why the plan elaborates an integrated approach for the next three years that includes institutional performance reviews as well as our planned systemic investigation. Another benefit of this approach is to limit duplication of efforts and reduce the reporting burden on institutions.

The plan supports our goal to be as open and transparent as possible and to encourage federal institutions to operate in compliance with the law. It is important to stress that the plan will continue to evolve. It will be adjusted annually to incorporate emerging issues, take into account problems identified through the complaint process and reflect consultations with stakeholders.

Year One

In year one, we will follow-up on our Special Report entitled Report Cards 2007-2008 and Systemic Issues Affecting Access to Information in Canada . This includes reporting on the implementation of the action plans of the ten institutions we surveyed last year, on the recommendations made to the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Canada School of Public Service, as well as on our own commitments. A list of these institutions is attached as Appendix A.

As part of the report card exercise, we will survey all institutions for which we have received at least five delay related complaints in 2008-2009. A list of these institutions is attached as Appendix B. The information we will be seeking relates to various indicators of timeliness, notably deemed refusal information, average life-span of requests and delays in responding beyond statutory timelines. Institutions will also have the opportunity to provide contextual information to explain the underlying reasons for their performance results. Selected institutions will receive the questionnaire before the end of July 2009.

Consistent with last year's process, we have allowed time for collaboration with institutions and for institutions to comment on a preliminary version of our report. We will publish action plans and responses from the institutions and include our findings in a special report to Parliament to be tabled in the last quarter of this fiscal year.

As part of the plan, we will initiate a systemic investigation, pursuant to subsection 30(3) of the Act, into the use and duration of time extensions. The investigation will address key concerns such as multiple requests that impact operations and the volume of consultations, particularly mandatory consultations. A first phase of the investigation will be based on information in our possession, including that which is contained in extension notices forwarded by heads of institutions under subsection 9(2) and analyses of currently available data.

We will also look into a practice that affects timeliness and relates to the time it takes institutions to produce documents to the OIC.

Update - June 2010

The Special Report "Out of Time": 2008-2009 Report Cards and Systemic Issues Affecting Access to Information in Canada was tabled in Parliament on April 13, 2010. This report chronicled the responses to the OIC recommendations to the ten institutions from the 2007-2008 report cards (Appendix A). Twenty-four institutions (Appendix B) were also studied based upon the criteria of having received five or more delay related complaints in 2008-2009. Combined, this cohort represents 88% of all the access to information requests received by the federal government, providing a solid base of evidence on the state of the federal access to information program in Canada.

The systemic investigation planned to be initiated in Year One has been delayed to Year Two. Based on the evidence gathered from the institutions surveyed in the report card process, the scope of the systemic investigation has been further defined to include delays resulting from mandatory consultations and matters of interference with the access to information process. You will find in Appendix D the list of institutions that will be included in the systemic investigation.

The OIC also issued a practice direction entitled "Requesting records from institutions" which clarifies that copies of records be provided by institutions within 10 working days. Any failure to provide the records within the required timeline will be considered as a "refusal to provide records" and will lead to escalation procedures.

Year Two

In year two, we will follow-up on our 2008-2009 Special Report. We will also review the three-year plan to determine whether it requires adjustments in the context of emerging trends and compliance issues.

We will survey selected institutions that became subject to the Access to Information Act as a result of the Federal Accountability Act. In addition to reviewing whether requests are responded to in a timely fashion, the review will collect information regarding key factors including the application of exemptions and exclusions and the challenges encountered by new institutions in terms of resources, internal support and foundational work. Institutions will be selected on the basis of complaints received since becoming subject to the Access to Information Act (5 or more complaints). A list of institutions is attached as Appendix C. The Office of the Information Commissioner will be reviewed as part of this exercise for which a special arm's length process will be developed and communicated.

Update - June 2010

The follow-up on the recommendations made to institutions surveyed in the 2008-2009 Special Report is scheduled to take place in Year Three (instead of Year Two) to allow sufficient time for the institutions to implement corrective measures. However, to ensure that meaningful remedial efforts are advancing, the OIC will canvass the 13 institutions that performed below average for an interim progress report that will be included in next year's special report.

Year Three

In year three, we will follow-up on the 24 institutions that were studied in the 2008-2009 Special Report. We will also release the findings of our systemic investigation. We will review the data collected as a result of the Treasury Board Secretariat's implementation of an enhanced statistical reporting system. The system will generate data related to time extensions and other critical elements of compliance. We will use this data to assess whether it points to issues or concerns.

In addition to persisting timeliness issues, the focus of that third year will be defined in year two by a review of the trends emerging in our complaints inventory and by our interactions with our stakeholders.

Update - May 2011

The investigative function of Officers of Parliament constitutes an instrument of an effective and rigorous democracy. In March 2011, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics published its 12th report on the OIC's 2008-2009 report cards, indicating that the Commissioner's special report "is an essential tool which allows parliamentarians to hold the government accountable." Also in March 2011, the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service published its fifth report, A Public Service for Challenging Times, encouraging the Government and Parliament to examine the current oversight regime and look for ways to reduce multiple reporting requirements without sacrificing accountability. There are opportunities for the OIC to streamline its report card process while continuing to ensure that its methodology is consistent, comprehensive and cogent.

In order to focus attention and resources where they are urgently required, the OIC is honing in on the 13 underperforming institutions as well as those five at risk from the 2008-2009 cohort (see Appendix E for the list). This reassessment will include a review of both qualitative and quantitative data integrated with a comparative analysis of OIC complaint statistics and an analysis of the responses to the OIC recommendations.

The OIC will follow-up via a progress report in May 2012 on the implementation of its recommendations to CBC and Canada Post from the 2009-2010 special report.

Finally, given that Treasury Board only started to gather additional statistics commencing in the 2011-2012 reporting period, they will not be available for analysis in this reporting period. The OIC will look into this issue in subsequent reporting periods.

Appendix A: Institutions surveyed in the 2007-2008 Special Report to Parliament

  • Canada Border Services Agency
  • Department of Justice Canada
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
  • Health Canada
  • Library and Archives Canada
  • National Defence
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Privy Council Office
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
 

Appendix B: Institutions surveyed in the 2008-2009 Special Report to Parliament

  • Canada Border Services Agency
  • Canada Revenue Agency
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Canadian Heritage
  • Canadian International Development Agency
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada
  • Correctional Service Canada
  • Department of Justice Canada
  • Environment Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
  • Health Canada
  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
  • Industry Canada
  • National Defence
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Privy Council Office
  • Public Safety Canada
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Telefilm Canada
  • Transport Canada
 

Appendix C: Institutions to be surveyed in the 2009-2010 Special Report to Parliament

  • Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
  • Canada Post Corporation
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • National Arts Centre
  • Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada
  • Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • VIA Rail Canada Inc.
 

Appendix D: Institutions included in the systemic investigation

Mandatory consultations

  • Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Privy Council Office (CCC)
  • National Defence
  • Public Safety Canada
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Canada Border Services Agency
  • Department of Justice
  • Correctional Service of Canada
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service
 

Interference with the ATI process

  • National Defence
  • Public Safety Canada
  • Canadian International Development Agency
  • Privy Council Office-ATIP
  • Health Canada
  • Heritage Canada
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canada Revenue Agency
 

Appendix E: Institutions from the 2008-2009 Special Report to be reassessed in the 2010-2011 Special Report

  • Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
  • Canada Revenue Agency
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Canadian Heritage
  • Canadian International Development Agency
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service
  • Correctional Service of Canada
  • Environment Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
  • Health Canada
  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
  • National Defence
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Privy Council Office
  • Public Safety Canada
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Transport Canada