Institutions may not close files pending consultations

Complaint: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) claimed a 180-day time extension to consult another institution about requested records. On the extended due date, TBS informed the requester that it had not received a response to its consultation request and that it was closing the file.

Investigation: TBS advised the requester that it would provide any releasable records at the conclusion of the consultation, whenever that might occur. However, TBS had no procedure in place to monitor the progress of the consultation and ensure its eventual completion after the file was closed.

Outcome: In light of the Information Commissioner’s investigation, TBS followed up with the institution it had consulted. Once the consultation was complete, TBS issued the final response to the requester.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • There is no basis in the Act for institutions to close requests before receiving consultation responses.
  • Closing a request pending outstanding consultations does not constitute a response to a request under either section 7 or section 10. These provisions define the appropriate timelines for and information to be included in a response.
  • As the institution to which the request was made in this case, TBS was responsible for responding accurately and in a timely manner, making any necessary decisions to ensure it met its statutory obligations.
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