The Access to Information Act (Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985, Chapter A-1) was proclaimed on July 1, 1983. The Act was most recently amended as a result of the royal assent of the Federal Accountability Act on December 12, 2006. Certain provisions came into force on December 12, 2006, and others took effect on April 1, 2007, and September 1, 2007.
The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens and individuals present in Canada a right of access to information contained in government records subject to certain specific and limited exceptions.
Section 72 of the Access to Information Act requires that the head of every federal government institution prepare for submission to Parliament an annual report on the administration of the Act within their institution during each fiscal year.
This Annual Report provides a summary of the management and administration of the Access to Information Act within Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) for the fiscal year 2008-2009.
The Department was originally founded in 1841 and was instrumental in the building of our nation's canals, roads and bridges, the Houses of Parliament, post offices and federal buildings across the country.
Today, the Department has evolved into a sophisticated operational arm of government that employs nearly 14,000 staff working in the National Capital and five regional offices in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
The Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, passed in 1996, established the Department and set out the legal authorities for services provided. Specifically, the Act established PWGSC as a common service agency providing government departments, boards and agencies with services in support of their programs, including:
The Act also specifies that the Minister of Public Works and Government Services is the Receiver General for Canada and has the authority for the administration of services related to benefits, superannuation and pension plans as well as disbursement of pay to federal employees.
PWGSC's goal is to run a business in a way that strengthens accountability and adds value to our clients. In doing so, PWGSC:
In 2008, we improved our reporting to Parliament by streamlining our Program Activity Architecture, which consolidates the number of program activities from 26 to nine, and establishes our strategic outcome as follows: High-quality, central programs and services that ensure sound stewardship on behalf of Canadians and meet the program needs of federal institutions.
The program activities, which contribute to the Department's strategic outcome, are as follows:
The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Directorate administers the provisions of the Access to Information Act for PWGSC, including two Special Operating Agencies, Audit Services Canada and the Translation Bureau, as well as the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman.
Under section 3 of the Access to Information Act, the Minister of the Department is designated as the head of the government institution for purposes of the administration of the Act. Pursuant to section 73, the Minister may delegate any of his powers, duties or functions under the Act by signing an order authorizing one or more officers or employees of the institution, who are at the appropriate level, to exercise or perform the powers, duties or functions of the head, specified in the order.
Within PWGSC this delegation instrument continued to be based on a centralized process with the Director, ATIP, and the Managers, Risk and Quality Management, having full delegated authority under the Access to Information Act. Certain administrative functions are also delegated to the ATIP Chiefs to speed the processing of requests.
An excerpt of the Delegation of Authorities approved by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services is enclosed at Annex A: Delegation of Authorities (Excerpt).
The responsibilities of the ATIP Directorate include the following:
The administration of the Act by the ATIP Directorate is also facilitated at the branch, sector, and regional office levels of PWGSC. Each organizational branch has an ATIP Liaison Officer who coordinates the collection of information and provides guidance to branch managers on the application of the Act, as well as related departmental directives and procedures.
For the reference of all employees, departmental policies are posted on PWGSC's intranet.
Departmental Policy 002 outlines the access to information Delegation of Authority and sets out the definitions as well as the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders within PWGSC.
The ATIP Liaison Officer Handbook is produced by the ATIP Directorate and is posted on PWGSC's intranet as a guide to:
The ATIP Directorate has developed and regularly updates its ATIP Officer Desk Procedures manual, to standardize the work procedures used by staff, to facilitate the training of new hires and to complement the functionality of the electronic ATIP tracking system.
Each year, the Information Commissioner conducts a review of selected federal institutions that are subject to the Access to Information Act, and makes recommendations to help them complete their ATI requests within the legislated timelines. Each review results in a rating of the institution's performance for the previous year.
In both 2005 and 2006, PWGSC received a B grade rating. However, during the 2007-2008 fiscal year PWGSC experienced a series of challenges in its ATIP program. This included an increased workload combined with human resources, records management and information technology concerns. Acting on performance measures and other early warning indicators, senior management intervened to develop an aggressive action plan to address shortcomings in the Department's ATIP performance. Regrettably, this action plan could not be implemented in time to prevent the Department from slipping to an F grade rating for the 2007-2008 period.
With the overarching goal of achieving an A grade rating in 2008-2009, PWGSC's ATIP Improvement Plan includes the following strategies:
By March 31, 2008, the backlog of requests had been greatly reduced from a carry forward of 263 requests at the end of 2006-2007 to 148 request carried forward at the end of 2007-2008, thereby positioning the Department with substantially fewer requests at the beginning of the fiscal year.
In the next fiscal year, the ATIP Directorate will also continue to implement the remaining activities of the action plan. These include the review of ATIP policies and procedures, improving the functionality of ATIP case management software, building and maintaining capacity within the ATIP Directorate as well as providing ATIP training and awareness sessions to departmental staff.
Furthermore, the Department's timeliness and projected compliance rate will continue to be closely monitored and reported on a weekly basis to senior management.
With a successful reduction of the backlog of late requests by the end of the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the Department surpassed its response time objective in 2008-2009 by responding to more than 95 percent of requests within the legislated timeframes.
PWGSC is committed to the continuous improvement of its management fundamentals and has used the results of the most recent MAF assessment as a benchmark. Senior management engagement has been key in ensuring that the Department continues to improve its results. In 2008-2009, an action plan was developed to specifically address MAF Round V results relating to ATIP. Key objectives were: engagement of departmental executives on ATIP legislative and policy requirements as well as clarifying accountabilities of departmental stakeholders in the ATIP process; inventory of all personal information in the Department; registration of all personal information banks (PIBs) and ensuring all relevant information holdings are described in PWGSC's Info Source chapter; piloting the revised Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) Privacy Impact Assess (PIA) process with the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman; and, undertaking awareness training sessions.
The ATIP Officer Development Program was developed in 2006 to address the Department's mid- and long-term shortage of skilled ATIP professionals by recruiting new employees at the junior level, fostering their loyalty to PWGSC, and preparing them to fill senior ATIP Officer positions at the PM-04 group and level within a three-year horizon. The Program is also intended to reduce the costs associated with the competitive staffing process and, in the long-term, the use of consultants.
As part of the ATIP Improvement Plan, and in order to develop and retain our employees, the Program was revised in 2008-2009 to include all ATIP Officers at the PM-01, -02 and/or -03 group and levels that are currently employed in the ATIP Directorate or hired through advertised processes. This accelerated approach to learning has been adopted by other departments as a method of addressing skills shortages in the ATIP community.
To address the staffing shortage facing the ATIP community, in addition to dealing with the increase in numbers of pages requested, the ATIP Directorate continued to use ATIP professional services under the terms of a competitive contract awarded in March 2008 to Antian Professional Services Inc. and the Access Information Agency Inc.
The Director, ATIP, is a member of the Interdepartmental ATIP Working Group that is chaired by TBS. In this capacity, PWGSC participated in the development of a new directive on access to information during the 2008-2009 fiscal year. One of the managers, ATIP, is also a member of the PWGSC Information Management Specialist Working Group, that was created in response to the TBS Information Management Policy that came into effect on July 1, 2007. The objective of this policy is to achieve efficient and effective information management to support program and service delivery; foster informed decision making; facilitate accountability, transparency, and collaboration; and, preserve and ensure access to information and records for the benefit of present and future generations.
Given the complex nature of the Access to Information Act, and the need to balance the public's right to access information with the need to protect the legitimate interests of other parties, the ATIP Directorate provided regular guidance and information sessions.
During the fiscal year, 20 information sessions were given to staff in the offices of the Minister and Deputy Minister, the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman, as well as managers and employees of the Human Resources Branch, the Real Property Branch, the Communications Sector, and the Cheque Redemption Control Directorate in Matane, Quebec. Approximately 450 participants attended these information sessions.
In addition, two group training sessions and several one-on-one briefings were also provided to 30 departmental Info Source coordinators, managers and employees to provide advice and guidance on TBS requirements as well as to address the gaps identified in the MAF Round V Assessment and to improve the content of PWGSC's chapter of Info Source.
All requests pursuant to the Access to Information Act are processed by the ATIP Directorate where they are first received and reviewed for clarity. Each request is then assigned to one or more organizational units of the Department, that become responsible for locating and retrieving the records containing the information sought, and identifying any costs or fees for processing the request.
The organizational units review the relevant records and offer recommendations to the ATIP Directorate on any sensitivities related to their disclosure. Where necessary, the ATIP Directorate also undertakes consultations with other organizations and third parties before a skilled ATI analyst reviews each record to make a decision on disclosure. The ATIP Directorate then notifies the requester and provides access to all of the records that can be disclosed.
The majority of Access to Information requests received by the Department during 2008-2009 were related to the contracting and procurement services provided by PWGSC. As well, a significant volume of requests was also received for briefing notes and question period cards to the Minister and records regarding real property.
In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the business community accounted for the highest percentage of users of the Act, generating 44 percent of the requests received by PWGSC. The public represented the second largest source of requests, constituting 36 percent of those received, whereas the media accounted for 14 percent, with the remaining six percent coming from organizations and the academic community.
Table I provides an overview of the trends related to volume of access to information requests received by PWGSC, by source of request, over the past three years.
|Source of Request||2006-2007||2007-2008||2008-2009|
A total of 732 requests were in progress during this reporting period, representing a 14 percent decrease in volume compared with the previous fiscal year. Of them, 584 requests (80 percent) were new requests, while 148 requests (20 percent) were outstanding from the previous year. Table II provides the related details.
|Reporting Period||Outstanding||Received||Completed||Carried Forward|
In addition to ATI requests, the Department received 245 ATI consultations from other federal institutions in 2008-2009, amounting to approximately 25,000 pages of records. On average, PWGSC responded to consultations within 25 days. These consultation requests are not reflected in the statistical tables at Annex B: Statistical Report - Access to Information Act, but they account for 30 percent of the ATIP Directorate's access to information caseload.
Table III outlines the institutions that consulted PWGSC most frequently in 2008-2009.
|Originating Institution||Received||%||Pages Reviewed|
|Royal Canadian Mounted Police||11||5||671|
|Other Government Institutions||133||55||13,733|
In order to assist the Department in the proactive release of information to the public, theATIP Directorate provides an informal review service. Although not reflected in the statistical tables at Annex B: Statistical Report - Access to Information Act, the ATIP Directorate received 11requests in 2008-2009 for the informal review of approximately 1,500 pages of records.
Of the 732 requests in progress, 611 requests (83 percent) were completed during the 2008-2009 reporting period. The remaining 121 requests (17 percent) were carried forward to the next fiscal year. This carry forward of 121 requests represents a reduction of 27 requests (18 percent) as compared to the last fiscal year.
Of the 611 cases where the Department completed the request, information was released either in whole or in part in 451 requests (74 percent). The 611 completed requests represent approximately 422,000 pages of records reviewed, and over 187,356 pages released.
In 113 of the 611 completed cases (18 percent), the requesters were provided with full access to the relevant records. This figure is up by six percent from last fiscal year.
PWGSC was compelled by the exemptive and exclusionary provisions of the Access to Information Act to provide requesters partial access in an additional 338 of the 611 completed cases (55 percent). This represents a one percent decrease from last fiscal year. In most instances, the information withheld related to third party information.
In 30 of the 611 completed requests (5 percent), PWGSC was compelled by the exemptive and exclusionary provisions of the Access to Information Act to release no information. This represents a one percent increase from the previous year.
Of the 611 requests completed, 11 (2 percent) concerned records not under the control of the Department. After initial processing, these requests were transferred to the appropriate government institution in accordance with section 8 of the Act.
After initial review, the Department was unable to process 71 requests (12 percent). In all instances this was because the Department did not have any records relating to the request.
Of the completed access requests, 48 (8 percent) were eventually considered to be abandoned. Such an action may occur at any point in the processing of a request and is most often due to a requester not paying the application fee or fees for search and preparation.
None of the requests received in 2008-2009 were treated informally.
Sections 13 through 24 of the Act set out the exemptions intended to protect information pertaining to a particular public or private interest, and section 26 of the Act is an administrative exception relating to the publication of information.
PWGSC is the recipient of a considerable amount of commercial, technical and financial information from third parties and, as in past years, the majority of access to information requests received by the Department were for records containing third party information. While most third party information is of a sensitive nature, PWGSC has endeavoured to release as much as possible, to remain consistent with the spirit of the Access to Information Act and the severability provisions of its section 25.
Annex B: Statistical Report - Access to Information Act is intended to show the types of exemptions invoked to refuse access. For clarity purposes, if five different exemptions were used in one request, one exemption under each relevant section would be reported for a total of five exemptions. If the same exemption was used several times for the same request, it would be reported only once.
As noted in Annex B: Statistical Report - Access to Information Act, personal information (subsection 19(1)) and advice (subsection 21(1)), as well as third party information (paragraphs 20(1)(b) and (c)) of the Act account for the majority of the exemptions applied by the Department.
Pursuant to section 68, the Act does not apply to material that is published or available for purchase, library or museum material preserved solely for public record, material deposited with the Library and Archives Canada, as well as records considered to be confidences of the Queen's Privy Council of Canada pursuant to section 69 of the Act.
Annex B: Statistical Report - Access to Information Act shows the types of exclusions invoked. Again, for the sake of clarity, if five different exclusions are cited in one request, one exclusion under each relevant section would be reported for a total of five. If the same exclusion was used several times for the same request, it would be reported only once.
In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, exclusions were applied pursuant to sections 68 and 69 of the Act on 49 or eight percent of the total number of requests completed.
Of the 584 requests received during the fiscal year, 289 needed to be extended in accordance with section 9 of the Access to Information Act. Due to the nature of PWGSC's mandate, the records requested often contained commercial and/or government sensitive information. As a result, many of the requests were extended pursuant to paragraphs 9(1)(b) and/or (c) of the Act, in order to undertake the necessary consultations with client departments and third parties prior to disclosure. While it was estimated that, on average, a 127 day time extension was required, the average completion time for all requests received was 92 days.
Despite the complexity of requests, coupled with the steady volume of access and consultation requests received, 287 of the 611 formal requests (47 percent) were completed within the initial 30-day period. This is a nine percent improvement over the last fiscal year.
There were no requests for the translation of information from one official language to another.
Of the 451 requests in which information was released, the requesters received copies of the information in 448 cases. There were two cases where access was provided by a combination of copies and in-person examination. It should be noted that the data in this section reflect only requests for which information was all disclosed or disclosed in part and therefore not those abandoned, etc.
Most requests (68 percent) were responded to in the form of paper copies, whereas 32 percent of cases resulted in electronic copies. With either method of access, as well as in-person examination, the ATIP Directorate offered the choice to the requester.
The Access to Information Act authorizes fees for certain activities related to the processing of formal requests under the Act. In addition to the $5 application fee, other charges may also apply for search, preparation and reproduction of the various records, as specified in the Access to Information Regulations.
No fees are imposed for reviewing records or for overhead or shipping. Moreover, in accordance with section 11 of the Act, no fees are charged for the first five hours required to search for a record or to prepare any part of it for disclosure.
There was a continued decrease in the amount of fees collected in relation to the search for, and the reproduction of, records. This is attributed to the increase of information disclosures made in electronic format. PWGSC assessed fees for information provided in paper format but did not charge reproduction fees if that same information was provided on CD or diskette. As per the delegation instrument, any decision to waive fees is delegated to the ATIP Chiefs and is made in accordance with PWGSC's Access to Information Fee Policy.
The fees collected during this reporting period totalled $6,084.60, while the fees waived in accordance with subsection 11(6) of the Act were $4,727.70. Fees collected for this reporting period are estimated to represent less than one percent of the Department's total cost of administering the Access to Information program.
A credit/debit card system continues to be used to facilitate the payment of fees by Interac and popular credit cards.
The total salary costs associated with the program were $1,217,770 or 40 percent of the ATIP Directorate's budget for fiscal year 2008-2009. The associated full-time equivalent (FTE) resources utilized were estimated at 16.18 for fiscal year 2008-2009.
Total operations and maintenance costs amounted to $1,866,219 and included the costs of consultants and maintenance of the Secret LAN and case management system.
Table IV provides the breakdown of complaints made to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada and of requests for judicial review filed with the Federal Court of Canada, for which PWGSC has been informed of over the past three fiscal years.
|Reporting Period||Complaints||Judicial Review|
Due to an initiative of the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada to clear a large backlog of complaints awaiting investigation, the number of new complaints received by PWGSC has risen since the previous fiscal year. In total the Department was notified in 2008-2009 of 66 complaints resulting in investigation, 14 of which were received by the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada in previous fiscal years.
Of the 66 complaints, 29 (44 percent) related to time extensions taken and 25 (38 percent) concerned information withheld under the Act. Of the remaining complaints, 12 (18 percent) concerned the processing of requests or missing records.
Of the complaints investigated, 21 were resolved to the satisfaction of the requester, 9 were not substantiated, 17 were discontinued, 2 were not well founded and 26 complaint investigations were still ongoing at the end of the fiscal year.
A requester may apply to the Court for a judicial review of PWGSC's decision to refuse access to a record requested under the Act, if a complaint has been made to the Information Commissioner in respect of the refusal, and within forty-five days after the results of the complaint have been reported by the Office of the Information Commissioner.
In addition, a third party has the right to apply to the Court for a review of PWGSC's decision to disclose information, if the third party believes that information should not be disclosed.
In 2008-2009, five access to information requests resulted in applications for judicial review being registered with the Federal Court of Canada, four of which involve questions related to third party information. Please find below a summary of these applications:
Federal Court File Number T-606-08: Brainhunter (Ottawa) Inc. requested a judicial review of PWGSC's decision to disclose details of their proposal for the provision of information technology professional services. Brainhunter (Ottawa) Inc. is asking the Court to ignore the statutory principle of severability and exempt the entire records of some 500 pages pursuant to subsections 19(1) and 20(1) of the Act. The Court is scheduled to hear this case on November 2, 2009.
Federal Court File Number T-367-09: Provincial Airlines Limited requested a judicial review of PWGSC's decision to disclose details of a report prepared by the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche for the Canadian Industrial Security Directorate of PWGSC. Provincial Airlines Limited claimed that the records should be exempt from disclosure pursuant to subsections 15(1), 16(2) and 20(1) of the Act. Affidavits have been exchanged.
Federal Court File Number T-474-09: The applicant requested a judicial review of PWGSC's decision to sever information found in the records pursuant to subsection 19(1) of the Act. The applicant claimed that, pursuant to section 3(j) of the Privacy Act, the level of education of a public servant does not qualify as personal information. Affidavits have been exchanged.
Federal Court File Number T-762-09: lunctus Geomatics Corp. requested a judicial review of PWGSC's decision to disclose details of their proposal for the provision of Operations and Maintenance of the CCRS Ground Segment Satellite Station Services. lunctus Geomatics Corp. claimed that certain portions should be exempt from disclosure pursuant to subsection 20(1) of the Act. Affidavits have been exchanged.
Federal Court File Number T-1201-09: Adga Group Consultants Inc. requested a judicial review of PWGSC's decision to disclose details of their proposals for the provision of information technology professional services. Adga Group Consultants Inc. claimed that the records should be exempt from disclosure, pursuant to subsection 20(1) of the Act, as the information was obtained pursuant to the Defence Production Act.
Of the two judicial reviews carried over from previous fiscal years, one was completed and one continued to be outstanding.
Federal Court File Number T-222-07: Bombardier Aerospace Defence Services Inc. objected to PWGSC's decision to release portions of the main agreement of the NATO Flying Training in Canada Program. The corporation believed that additional information should be exempted pursuant to paragraphs 20(1)(b)(c)(d) of the Act. On April 2, 2008, the application was discontinued without costs as a result of successful negotiations between the two parties.
Federal Court File Number T-459-08: TPG Technology Consulting Ltd. has requested a review of PWGSC's decision to exempt the requested records in their entirety pursuant to paragraphs 18(d) and 21(1)(b)(d) of the Act. The records pertain to the technical evaluation document for proposals related to the Public Works and Government Services Canada Engineering and Technical Services Request for Proposals referred to as EN869-04047/A. Affidavits have been exchanged.
lnstitution: PUBLIC WORKS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES CANADA
Reporting period: 01/04/2008 to 31/03/2009
Received during reporting period: 584
Outstanding from previous period: 148
Completed during reporting period: 611
Carried forward: 121
Art. 15(1) International rel.
Translations requested: 0
In addition to the reporting requirements addressed in form TBS/SCT 350-62 "Report on the Access to Information Act", institutions are required to report on the following using this form:
Subsection 13(e) ________0_______
Subsections 14(a) ________1__________
Subsection 69.1 (1) ________0________