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Canadian International Development Agency

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) delivers Canada's official development assistance around the world, working to reduce poverty, promote human rights and support sustainable development.

Assessment: B

(Received an F in 2008–2009)

  • CIDA turned in a very good performance in 2010–2011, despite a growing workload. The deemed refusal rate was 8.2 percent. The average time to complete a request fell from previous levels, despite CIDA's clearing its backlog of long-standing requests. In addition, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) registered only four complaints against CIDA in 2010–2011.
  • CIDA reports that its success was the result of receiving the resources it needed to secure consultants, establishing clear communication within the access to information team, implementing new procedures and creating a procedures manual, and providing extensive training to CIDA employees.
  • CIDA satisfactorily implemented all six of the OIC's 2008–2009 recommendations. However, the OIC is concerned about CIDA's practice of closing files with outstanding consultations and has issued a recommendation in this area, along with several others to prompt further improvements in performance (2010-2011 Recommendations).
QUICK FACTS
2008–2009 2010–2011
Number of requests carried over from previous fiscal year 102 52
Number of new requests 150 205
Number of requests completed 168 198
Number of pages reviewed for requests completed 10,188 17,563
Deemed refusal rate 37.7%* 8.2%*
Average number of days to complete a request 157 113
Average number of days to complete a request received in 2010–2011 n/a 49
Number of consultation requests received 86 111
Percentage of required extension notices submitted to the OIC <85% >85%
Number of complaints registered with the OIC 11 4
Number of complaints the OIC resolved 4** 0**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information operations, as of the end of the fiscal year 8.29 9.8
Follow-up on 2008–2009 recommendations

Delegation order.............................................. Met expectations

Backlog/improvement plan............................ Met expectations

Consultations: protocols............................... Met expectations

Consultations: inform requesters
of additional records
........................................ Met expectations

Consultations: time extensions.................... Met expectations

Extension notices........................................... Met expectations

See report card text for details. For the full text of the recommendations, as well as the institution's initial response and October 2010 progress report, go here .

*   Percentage of carried over and new requests delayed beyond the deadlines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act. (See Appendix B for the formula the OIC used to calculate this rate.)

** A complaint is resolved when the OIC finds it has merit and the institution resolves it to the Commissioner's satisfaction. The number of complaints reported reflects complaints resolved as of November 2011. As a result, the figure for 2008–2009 may differ from what appeared in the 2008–2009 report card.

Report card

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) turned in a very good performance in 2010–2011, despite a growing workload (37 percent more access requests and 29 percent more consultation requests compared with 2008–2009). The deemed refusal rate dropped from 37.7 percent to 8.2 percent, and the average time to complete a request fell from 157 days to 113 days. CIDA was able to clear its backlog of long-standing requests. (This inflates the average completion time. Excluding the backlogged cases, CIDA's average completion time for requests received and completed in 2010–2011 was 49 days.) The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) registered only 4 complaints against CIDA in 2010–2011, compared with 11 in 2008–2009.

CIDA reported that its success was the result of receiving the resources necessary to secure consultants, establishing clear communication within the access to information team, implementing new procedures and creating a procedures manual, and providing extensive training (32 training sessions with 452 CIDA employees—with the priority on program areas that had trouble meeting their access obligations and those that asked for training). Access officials report that senior management has supported the shift to making access to information and privacy training mandatory for all employees.

With fewer complaints to respond to, CIDA reports that it was able to spend more time in communication with requesters. Analysts now discuss with requesters the possibility of partially releasing documents while awaiting responses on consultations, and also explain the use of exemptions. Not only does this help reduce the number of complaints, but it is also a good example of exercising the duty to assist. The reduction in complaints is likely also a result of more requests staying on time (CIDA completed all but nine requests—6 percent—within the deadlines it had set).

Consultations with other institutions have been more timely, thanks to informal agreements that CIDA put in place with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, National Defence and the Department of Justice Canada. Follow-ups are still required when these institutions do not respect agreed-upon deadlines. The exercise of closing a request while engaging in consultations with other government institutions is a practice about which the OIC has expressed concern. The OIC is of the view that, absent a decision by the institution to apply an exemption in a substantive matter and to properly affect the severance required by section 25 of the Access to Information Act, a file should not be closed. The OIC, however, encourages institutions to make partial releases whenever possible, to fulfill their duty to assist.

Further, the OIC advocates that an institution set out fixed time frames within which consulted institutions have an opportunity to provide their severing recommendations, failing which the government institution in receipt of the request would determine for itself any applicable exemptions. This would obviate CIDA's practice of closing files with outstanding consultations.

CIDA reported that although changes have been made to the agency's information management system, further improvements are needed. Access officials said that upcoming awareness sessions should clarify some of the outstanding issues.

CIDA must be commended for its performance in 2010–2011. However, the OIC agrees with the access to information coordinator at this institution, who noted during the report card interview how quickly performance can decline. CIDA has reported that its performance for 2011–2012 will not be as good as that for 2010–2011. Due to a variety of factors, most notably the growing workload, the sudden loss of several employees and organizational restructuring, access staff have been finding it very difficult to adhere to legislative deadlines. This underlines the need for long-term planning.

Follow-up on 2008–2009 recommendations

The OIC issued six recommendations to CIDA with the 2008–2009 report card. The following summarizes the subsequent developments at the institution in response. (For the full text of the recommendations, the institution's response and its October 2010 progress report, go here.)

  1. CIDA now closely follows its delegation order in the wake of the OIC's recommendation to eliminate unnecessary approvals. The Minister's office now receives a copy of release packages for information only, 72 hours before disclosure.
  2. At the OIC's recommendation, CIDA put an improvement plan in place that has resulted in the elimination of the backlog of long-standing requests and a large improvement in CIDA's deemed refusal rate.
  3. CIDA has agreements regarding consultations in place with the institutions it consults most, as per the OIC's recommendations.
  4. CIDA has a process in place to ensure that requesters know that it may receive additional records resulting from mandatory consultations, even though CIDA has closed the file. During the 2008–2009 report card process, it was unclear to the OIC whether CIDA was following this practice. As noted, the OIC does not agree with institutions' closing files with outstanding consultations after doing a partial release of records.
  5. CIDA regularly consults other institutions to set realistic deadlines, as the OIC recommended. However, the OIC notes the increase in the number of time extensions CIDA took in 2010–2011, particularly the large jump in those for 91–120 days and for more than 180 days.
  6. The OIC recommended that CIDA improve its procedures to ensure it submits all the required notices of extensions of more than 30 days. CIDA met the OIC's 85-percent standard for acceptable performance in this area in 2010–2011.

Access to information workload, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

This graph shows the sources of the Canadian International Development Agency's workload for the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Comparing 2008–2009 to 2010–2011, the institution saw a 9-percent increase in its workload. It carried 49 percent fewer requests over from the previous fiscal year, but received 37 percent more new access requests and 29 percent more consultation requests. The number of pages reviewed for requests completed increased by 72 percent.

Access to information workload, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

Text Version

How long it took to complete new requests, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Between 2008–2009 and 2010–2011, the proportion of new access requests the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) completed within the timelines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act increased from 67 percent to 94 percent. The remaining requests were completed late: 49 requests in 2008–2009 and 9 in 2010–2011.

How long it took to complete new requests, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Text Version

Number and length of time extensions taken, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) reported to have taken in 2008–2009 and 2010–2011. CIDA supplied this information in the notices it sent to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. CIDA submitted fewer than 85 percent of the required notices in 2008–2009, at which point the OIC issued a recommendation that CIDA improve its performance in this area. In 2010-2011, CIDA submitted more than 85 percent of the required notices. The OIC notes the increase in the number of time extensions CIDA took in 2010–2011, particularly the large jump in those for 91–120 days and for more than 180 days.

Number and length of time extensions taken, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Text Version

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

These graphs show the number and outcome of two types of complaint registered against the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that CIDA delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about CIDA's use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. There were no complaints against CIDA in either of these categories in 2010–2011.

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

Text Version

Number and outcome of complaints received by the Office of the Information Commissioner, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

This table sets out the number and outcome of the complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) registered against the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Although CIDA saw an increase in complaints in 2009–2010 compared to the year before, more than half of these were not substantiated or discontinued. In 2010–2011, the number of complaints dropped sharply. Of the four complaints registered, all were pending at the time of writing.

 

Resolved*

Not substantiated

Discontinued

Pending

Total

2008–2009
Administrative 4 1 5 0 10
Refusals 0 0 0 1 1
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 4 1 5 1 11
2009–2010
Administrative 7 4 3 0 14
Refusals 0 3 1 3 7
Cabinet confidences 0 1 0 0 1
Total 7 8 4 3 22
2010–2011
Administrative 0 0 0 2 2
Refusals 0 0 0 2 2
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 4 4

* Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner's satisfaction.

2010–2011 recommendations

CIDA improved its performance in 2010–2011, and the OIC is issuing the following five recommendations to ensure that that improvement continues.

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Minister of International Cooperation and the Deputy Minister of the Canadian International Development Agency demonstrate leadership and maintain the resourcing levels needed for CIDA to comply with its obligations under the Access to Information Act.

RESPONSE: The Minister of International Cooperation and the Deputy Minister of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will continue to demonstrate leadership and maintain the resourcing levels needed for it to comply with its obligations under the Access to Information Act

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency not close files with outstanding consultations. Instead, it should set out fixed time frames within which consulted institutions have an opportunity to provide their severing recommendations, failing which CIDA, as the government institution in receipt of the request, would determine for itself any applicable exemptions.

RESPONSE: CIDA will not close access to information request files with outstanding consultations. CIDA will better estimate time frames for consulting other institutions who provide severing recommendations and will clearly communicate those deadlines with them. Should the consulted institutions not meet the deadline, CIDA, as the government institution in receipt of the access to information request, will determine for itself any applicable exemptions for which it has the legal authority.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency reduce the length of extensions that it takes to process access to information requests.

RESPONSE: CIDA will continue to work towards reducing the length of extensions that it takes to process access to information requests in order to achieve better turnaround times for access to information requests.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency continue to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

RESPONSE: CIDA will continue its efforts to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero by improving efficiency in the processing of its access to information requests. The fact that CIDA, as the government institution in receipt of the access to information request, will now determine for itself any applicable exemptions when consulted institutions do not respond within established time frames should contribute to reducing the refusal rate.

5. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian International Development Agency report on its progress implementing these recommendations in its annual report to Parliament on access to information operations.

RESPONSE: CIDA will report on its progress implementing these recommendations in its annual report to Parliament on access to information operations.