Institutions must be vigilant in ensuring responses to requests are on time

Complaint: The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) delayed in responding to a request for records of electronic communications between the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and CIDA officials.

Investigation: The OIC learned that the delay resulted from a lack of attention on the part of both CIDA and officials in the Privy Council Office (PCO), who had been consulted about the records. For example, CIDA took 22 months to determine which records were relevant to the request. In turn, PCO gave no attention to the consultation request for 14 months. No one from CIDA followed up, despite its policy to do so when consultations are late.

Outcome: A new CIDA analyst contacted PCO to enquire about the status of the consultation. As a result, PCO began to work on the file and responded to CIDA two months later.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • The institution that receives an access request is ultimately responsible for responding to it on time, even when it needs to consult with another institution. CIDA failed to do so in this case.
  • Best practices for consultations include negotiating with or requesting a deadline from the institution being consulted; monitoring the response time and following up when necessary; and making a decision about disclosure when the consultation response will be late.
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