Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada
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The mission of the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada portfolio, which includes the federal Labour Program and Service Canada, is to build a stronger, more competitive Canada, to support Canadians in making choices that help them live productive and rewarding lives, and to improve Canadians' quality of life.
(Received a C in 2008–2009)
Delegation order.............................. Did not meet expectations
Backlog............................................................. Met expectations
Deemed refusal rate........................................ Met expectations
Extension notices............................................ Met expectations
See report card text for details. For the full text of the recommendations and the institution's initial response, 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.)
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) turned in a strong performance in 2010–2011. Its deemed refusal rate was 3.5 percent and its average time to complete a request was 45 days. HRSDC also eliminated its backlog of long-standing requests. These achievements reflect notable improvements from 2008–2009, which, according to HRSDC, was an atypical year because of a merger of its access to information functions with those of Service Canada.
In an effort to reduce the deemed refusal rate, HRSDC officials instituted a quarterly report to clearly communicate plans and priorities. Also, senior management is now regularly updated on access statistics to provide awareness throughout the organization. HRSDC reported that the aim of this briefing is not to single out any particular area, but rather to quickly identify trouble spots.
HRSDC reported having a strong and stable access to information team, which has resulted in confidence, consistency and continuity. HRSDC has experienced very low staff turnover in recent years.
HRSDC reported that there were no delays in the approval process. The executive head of a branch or region is provided with a copy of the release package, upon request, and has four working days to sign off that he or she is aware the records are being released. Packages may also be provided to communications and the Minister's office upon request. Access officials said that responding to information requests is not delayed by this "seen and noted" process, since they have made it abundantly clear to all parties that they adhere to legislated timelines. Contrary to the OIC's 2008–2009 recommendation, however, the delegation order at HRSDC remains diffuse, listing senior officials outside the access office. HRSDC officials are of the view that, given the institution's size and complex structure, the access director is well served by having the support of senior portfolio management.
The number of complaints against HRSDC more than doubled from 11 in 2008–2009 to 26 in 2010–2011, half of which were for time extensions. HRSDC has suggested that the increase in complaints is due to the increase in requests: it received 67 percent more requests in 2010–2011 than in 2008–2009. Access officials said that a large number of complaints were made by a single person. With a significant increase in time extension complaints, the OIC reminds HRSDC to ensure that all time extensions taken are reasonable.
The OIC issued four recommendations to HRSDC with the 2008–2009 report card. The following summarizes the subsequent developments at the institution in response. (For the full text of the recommendations and the institution's response, go here .)
This graph shows the sources of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada's workload for the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Comparing 2008–2009 to 2010–2011, the institution saw a 37-percent increase in its workload. Access requests carried over from the previous year decreased by 41 percent, but new requests increased by 67 percent and consultation requests increased by 15 percent from 2008–2009 to 2010–2011. The number of pages reviewed for requests completed increased by 62 percent.
Between 2008–2009 and 2010–2011, the proportion of new access requests Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) completed within the timelines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act rose from 92 percent to 98 percent. The remaining requests were completed late: 19 requests in 2008–2009 and 9 in 2010–2011. Although the number of overdue requests is small, HRSDC took longer to complete them after the deadline in 2010–2011 than it did in 2008–2009.
This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) reported to have taken in 2008–2009 and 2010–2011. The institution supplied this information in the notices it sent to the Office to the Information Commissioner (OIC) under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. HRSDC met the OIC's 85-percent standard for acceptable performance in this area in both 2008–2009 and 2010–2011.
These graphs show the number and outcome of two types of complaint registered against Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that HRSDC delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about HRSDC's use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. The number of time extension complaints against HRSDC increased by more than five times from 2008–2009 to 2010–2011. Of the 13 time extension complaints received in 2010–2011, 9 were resolved.
This table sets out the number and outcome of the complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) registered against Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. The number of complaints against HRSDC more than doubled from 2008–2009 to 2010–2011. Half of the 26 complaints registered in 2010–2011 were about HRSDC's use of time extensions.
* Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner's satisfaction.
In light of HRSDC's strong performance, the OIC challenges it to assume a leadership role in the access to information community. However, the OIC is also issuing three new recommendations to prompt further improvement.
1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada regularly review the processes and turnaround times related to the approvals required by the inclusion of non-access officials in the delegation order, to ensure they are not causing any delays in the release of records.
Through its quarterly Access to Information Management Reports, HRSDC regularly reviews turnaround times to respond to Access to Information Act requests.
It should be noted the HRSDC's process does not involve obtaining approvals from non-Access officials cited on the delegation order.
Including senior management on the delegation order serves the Access to Information and Privacy Division, since having a voice at the senior management table means that ATI-related issues that need to be expedited can promptly be discussed at a senior level and resolved efficiently.
2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada review its use of extensions to ensure that they are reasonable.
3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada report on its progress implementing these recommendations in its annual report to Parliament on access to information operations.