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Archived Document

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Annual Report on the Administration of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act; 2005–2006

Copies of this document may be obtained from:

Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division
International Trade Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2

This publication can be made available on computer diskette, compact disk or in large print, upon request.

Enquiries about this document may be directed to:

Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division
International Trade Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
Tel: 613–992–1425
FAX: 613–995–0116

Context

Overview

This report describes the administration of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) from April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006.

Organization of the Department

In February 2006, with the election of a new government, the two components of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade were reintegrated. At present, the department is updating its management structure and program activities. This work will be reflected in future departmental publications.

Administration of the Access and Privacy Function

The Director of the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division (the ATIP Office of the Department) has been delegated full authority to exercise the powers of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

The ATIP Director reports to the Director General of the Executive Services Bureau who, along with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Minister of International Trade, are also designated with full powers. All Heads of Mission are designated to act under Section 8(2)(m) of the Privacy Act.

Challenges

DFAIT’s performance under the Access to Information Act continues to be scrutinized by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) and has been since 1998. The overall departmental performance has been of sub–standard compliance over this period. Although over the years, steps were taken to strengthen departmental capacity and compliance with these statutes, these have not proven to achieve improved consistent results.

OIC Report Card Results for DFAIT
19981999200020012002200320042005
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In 2004–2005, the department undertook the conduct of an independent review of the Access and the Privacy functions to address the persistent delays and to develop permanent solutions. It committed to developing a departmental action plan to address the systemic issues and to improve the department's performance of these functions.

Progress

The department is currently implementing a major strategy to improve it's performance. To assist in developing an action plan for building a sustained function, the department completed a third party review of the entire ATIP function, which was initiated by the Inspector General in late spring 2004 and completed on May 3, 2005.

The review concluded that the importance of the ATIP function makes it one of the intrinsic priorities of DFAIT. The delivery of the ATI and Privacy functions is mandatory and compliance with regulations and policies is of high importance for Canadians, Parliamentarians and the Departments. Given that the Department cannot control the inputs nor reduce the quality of the outputs or the deadlines, the only way to deliver these functions well is to embed their requirements into the organization's culture and to ensure that those entrusted with the delivery have the tools and resources to operate efficiently.

The review also underlined the recurring non–compliance under both access and privacy obligations, the need for training across the department to support the ATIP function, the workload of case files by ATIP employees compared with other departments, the technology requirements and that improvements can only come with additional FTEs. The department took the results of the review and designed a comprehensive action plan that was formally adopted by the department's Management Committee on June 14, 2005.

The department has been fully engaged in implementing the Business Plan in 2005–2006. A Human Resources Plan was developed in preparations for hiring. In addition to the 15 existing positions, an additional 15 FTEs will be staffed as indeterminate employees. The organizational design allows for junior development positions in order to gain and retain in–house expertise and provide for succession planning. These measures will greatly assist to address the shortage of experience staff and building capacity within the department. In the meantime, the ATIP office relies on the assistance of ATIP consultants as part of a short term solution.

The department has fully endorsed the use of imaging software to assist in the processing of documents. It purchased ATIPImage and deployed all the necessary technical resources/support for its implementation in September 2005, including the recruitment of a systems specialist.

The ATIP process has been carefully mapped and is being re–designed to increase its effectiveness with the assistance of an independent expert consultant.

Discussions have also been initiated for the development of a comprehensive training plan for the department and for ATIP Analysts. During 2005–2006, the ATIP Office continued to provide training sessions for employees. These sessions provided 100 employees with an overview of the Acts and a better understanding of their obligations and the process within DFAIT. Customized sessions were also provided to divisional teams upon request.

In 2005, the department adopted an aggressive strategy to respond to the existing delay situation which produced positive results in the short term by responding to the 153 delay complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner initiated. All of the self–initiated complaints were responded to by the end of the fiscal year.

The Department continues to monitor the ATIP performance closely and to implement the ATIP Business Plan to improve the overall performance of the function.

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Part I – Access to Information Act

Statistics

The Department received 447 new access requests in 2005–2006. When added to the 163 requests being carried forward from the previous fiscal year, this means that DFAIT was responsible for the processing of 610 requests during 2005–2006.

The Department was able to complete the processing of 479 requests, leaving 131 requests to be carried over to next fiscal year. A total of 64,000 pages were reviewed under the Act.

Of the 447 requests received in 2005–2006, the most frequent type of requester was from the public (222) followed by the media (100), various types of businesses (75), organizations (38), and academia (12).

Of the 479 requests that were completed, full disclosure was provided for 69 requests, partial disclosure was provided for 178 requests, and all records were denied for 16 requests. Besides this, 12 requests were transferred to another department, the department was unable to process 99requests, 93 requests abandoned by the applicants and 12 requests were treated informally.

The three main reasons where access to information was denied related to either the operations of government (Section 21), personal information (Section 19) or international affairs (Section 15).

Of the 479 requests completed in 2005–2006, 145 requests were completed in 30 days or less, 62 requests were completed in between 31 and 60 days, 70 requests were completed in between 61 and 120 day, and 202 requests took more than 120 days to complete. The Department found it necessary to extend the time frame on 125 occasions to conduct large searches, external consultations and/or to complete third party notifications.

Other requests and informal disclosures

Consultations from Other Government Department

The Department is also responsible for processing numerous consultation requests from other departments. The Department received 676 such requests and completed 702, some of which were carried forward from the previous fiscal year. A total of 60,000 pages of information were reviewed under the Act.

Screening Program

The ATIP Office is responsible for screening Departmental records prior to transfer to the National Archives. This obligatory program allows the department to release records each year that facilitate research access to greater volumes of information concerning Canada’s conduct of international relations. In 2005–2006, the ATIP Office screened 300,000 pages of historical departmental records prior to their transfer to the National Archives.

Historical Section – Informal Access Program

This program provides an avenue for academics and serious researchers who seek access to records held by the Department in order to carry out their work. With the assistance of departmental divisions, access to records held by the Department is expedited outside the formal framework of the Access to Information Act while ensuring that sensitive information remains protected. A total of 3 requests were processed which involved over 100 pages of information.

Internal Requests for Advice

The ATIP Office also acted as a resource for DFAIT officials and offered advice and guidance on the provisions of the legislation. The ATIP Office was consulted on 145 departmental issues relating to a range of matters from surveys, questionnaires, memorandum of understanding, information sharing arrangements, data bases, contracts, privacy and human resources issues.

Resources

Department spending directly attributable to the administration of the Access to Information Act totalled $1,518,699.00, of which $611,401.00 was for salaries and $907,298.00 was for related administrative costs. Person year utilization totalled 15.

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Part II – Privacy Act

Statistics

The Department received 205 new Privacy requests in 2005–2006. When added to the 57 requests being carried forward from the previous fiscal year, this means that DFAIT was responsible for the processing of 262 requests during 2005–2006.

The Department completed the processing of 208 requests during this reporting period, leaving 54 requests to be carried over to 2006–2007.

Of the 208 requests that were completed, full disclosure was provided for 71 requests, partial disclosure was provided for 71 requests, and all records were denied for 2 requests. Besides this, the department was unable to process 39 requests for various reasons, 24 requests were abandoned by applicants and one request was transferred to another institution.

The three main reasons where access to information was denied related to either information about another individual (Section 26), law enforcement and investigation (Section 22) and international relations and defence (Section 21).

Of the 208 requests completed in 2005–2006, 105 requests were completed in 30 days or less, 36 requests were completed in between 31 and 60 days, 24 requests were completed in between 61 and 120 day, and 43 requests took more than 120 days to complete. Time extensions were invoked for 42 requests – 35 due to interference with operations and 7 for external consultations. All these extensions were for 30 or less.

Disclosures under s. 8(2) of the Privacy Act

The ATIP Office processed 436 requests for disclosure of personal information under Section 8(2) of the Privacy Act.

Privacy Impact Assessments

Under the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) Policy, which came into effect on May 2, 2002, Treasury Board Secretariat is to monitor compliance with the PIA Policy through a variety of means. Given the foregoing Policy requirements, institutions are asked to report the following information for the 2005–2006 time period.

DFAIT report for the 2005–2006 time period:

  • A number of PIAs initiated: 4
  • A number of Preliminary Privacy Impact Assessments (PPIA) initiated: 1
  • A number of PPIAs/PIAs forwarded to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC ): 2
  • A the number of PIA summaries posted on institutional web sites: none

The ATIP Office has been participating in the development of the following assessments:

  • Memorandum of Understanding between Passport Canada and Correctional Services Canada
  • National Routing Systems for Birth Certificate Verification (Passport Canada)
  • Web Application Promart
  • Passport On–Line
  • DFAIT Human Resource Information System

Resources

Department spending directly attributable to the administration of the Privacy Act totalled $506,232.00 of which $203,800.00 was for salaries and $302,432.00 was for related administrative costs. Person year utilization totalled 5.

Part III – Annexes

Annex A – Statistical Report on the Administration of the Access to Information Act

Annex B – Statistical Report on the Administration of the Privacy Act

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Date Modified:
2012-02-13