2013-2014 5. Corporate services
This year brought the Commissioner and her office to the conclusion of her 2011–2014 strategic plan. The plan has guided the organization’s activities in three key areas since 2011.
Exemplary service to Canadians: The Commissioner closed more than 4,900 complaints over three years. The same period also saw improvements in how quickly investigators respond to complainants. In addition, the Commissioner secured more information for requesters whenever possible. New business tools and a strategic approach to managing the caseload were instrumental in making these achievements possible.
A leading access to information regime: The Commissioner completed a diagnostic of the causes of delays in the access system. Through subsequent projects, including systemic investigations, she contributed to the improvement of policy instruments governing access. Due to the Commissioner’s attention to these issues, some institutional practices have also improved.
An exceptional workplace: Targeted recruitment strategies have succeeded in reducing turnover among investigators. In addition, a number of new and talented employees have been recruited. Managers are exploring various creative and cost-effective training and staff development opportunities. With the relocation of her office in January 2014, the Commissioner is also considering collaborating with co-tenants (fellow agents of Parliament) on training and professional development activities.
Stewardship of limited resources
The Commissioner’s budget has been impacted by 9 percent since 2009, due to various cuts and other measures. In addition, the office move, including the fit-up of the new space, will require the Commissioner to divert 2.5 percent of her budget from the program to cover ongoing costs, including repaying the loan secured to finance the move, starting in 2014–2015. Under the operational spending freeze announced in the 2013 Speech from the Throne, salary increases will have to be absorbed in the overall budget. This will likely have a further impact on the resources available for investigating complaints.
In this context, the 30-percent increase in new complaints in 2013–2014 is of particular concern. The Commissioner’s investigative capacity is stretched at a time when she has no funding available to augment it. This means she is unable to immediately assign files. Ultimately, this will jeopardize her ability to safeguard the rights conferred by the Access to Information Act. In light of these circumstances, the Commissioner continues to be vigilant about monitoring the use of her limited resources.
The Commissioner introduced an internal evaluation function in 2013–2014 to complement the existing internal audit capacity. To that end, the Commissioner updated the charter for her office’s Audit and Evaluation Committee, and the audit policy, and introduced a policy on evaluations. A new and comprehensive plan sets out a series of risk-based audits and evaluations that will take place between 2014 and 2018. To ensure the objectivity and independence of the audit and evaluation function, an external member of the Audit and Evaluation Committee acts as Chief Audit Executive.
The Office of the Information Commissioner received another clean audit from the Office of the Auditor General for 2012–2013. The future-oriented financial statements are available on the Commissioner’s website.
The Commissioner filled the position of General Counsel in July 2013. This has brought stability to the Commissioner’s senior management group, since all the positions reporting directly to her are now staffed on a permanent basis.
The Commissioner launched a new integrated human resources plan in 2013. The plan reviews demographics and other factors affecting the workforce, and sets out human resources priorities and staffing plans. As of March 31, 2014, the Commissioner had a full staff complement. The plan sets out clear priorities for future recruitment in order to attract the best people to help the Commissioner meet her objectives.
In 2013–2014, the Commissioner and her managers worked to ensure that the organization’s performance management program aligns with the new Treasury Board Secretariat Directive on Performance Management. To reflect the unique work of investigators, the program supplements the government-wide approach with specific performance targets, and knowledge and skills requirements. These measures were implemented in 2013 as a pilot project and are being adjusted based on the first year’s experience.
The performance management program dovetails with the Commissioner’s talent management program, which provides developmental opportunities to high-performing employees. Performance management and talent management are key components of how the Commissioner will meet her goal of achieving excellence in all aspects of her work&the cornerstone of the integrated human resources plan.
The new Values and Ethics Code for the Office of the Information Commissioner sets out the values and behaviours everyone who works at the organization must demonstrate. Living up to the Code, which also aligns with the values of the public service, helps strengthen the ethical culture of the Commissioner’s office, contributes to the public’s confidence in its integrity and helps the Commissioner deliver her mandate by providing guidance for employees in their day-to-day dealings with co-workers, complainants and other stakeholders.
Information management/information technology
Over the past five years, the organization has sought to update its information management/information technology (IM/IT) infrastructure. Under a five-year IM/IT strategy, which came to an end in 2013–2014, investigators now have tools to help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
In 2013–2014, the IT group put the finishing touches on the legal component of the organization’s case management system, in anticipation of launching it in 2014. By interfacing with the investigation component, this new tool will facilitate reporting and the sharing of information about investigations across the Office of the Information Commissioner.
The office’s relocation provided opportunities to update and standardize IT infrastructure. This has significantly decreased the amount of equipment necessary to provide the required IT capacity, and also led to improvements in how well the systems function, as evidenced by the 30-percent reduction in IT service desk requests in 2013–2014.
Renewal of the IM program continued in 2013–2014, with ongoing updating of the electronic document and information management system, and work to ensure compliance with various directives and policies on document management and retention.
Access to information and privacy
For information on the Commissioner’s access to information and privacy activities in 2013–2014, consult her annual reports to Parliament on these topics. Appendix B contains the annual report of the Information Commissioner ad hoc, who investigates complaints about the Office of the Information Commissioner’s handling of access requests.