Access to Information Act
Annual Report 2009–2010
Access to Information
The annual statistical report is attached in Annex B. During the last fiscal year, the OCL received three requests under the Access to Information Act (AIA). Two of the requests submitted to the OCL under the AIA originated from the media. The first request from the media was treated informally and the $5 cheque was returned to the applicant, due to the fact that the information was readily available to the public. The standard $5 application fee was also waived for the second media request. The third request originated from the public and the standard $5 application fee was cashed.
The OCL disclosed all of the requested information within the 30 days allowed under the AIA for the first media request. Subsection 19(1) of the AIA was invoked for the second media request, because the information was considered confidential or personal. As a result, a 30 day extension for third party consultations was required in order to release the information. The third parties subsequently refused to allow disclosure of the information and the file was completed within the 60 days allowed under the AIA.
The request from the public, which is being carried forward into 2010–2011, concerned the disclosure of confidential or personal information. The OCL sent a letter stipulating that confidential or personal information cannot be disclosed without the consent of the third parties involved. The letter also indicated that a 30 day extension would be required for consent of the third parties. The applicant communicated with the OCL by telephone and expressed disagreement with this approach. The OCL subsequently attempted to communicate with the applicant on several occasions, to discuss the third party consultation process. The OCL had not yet received a reply on March 31, 2010.
The OCL incurred costs of $13,121 associated with the AIA and utilized approximately 0.05 person years towards its implementation in the last fiscal year.
Education and Training Activities
In 2007–2008, the OCL adopted the Privasoft software system to track requests and process documents efficiently. The OCL's ATIP Advisor and the former ATIP Coordinator have been trained in its use. The annual costs associated with renting the software system have been included in Section X of the Statistical Report under: Administration: "Operations and Maintenance" (O and M).
The ATIP Advisor analyses and processes the ATIP requests, and provides advice to the ATIP Coordinator, who is ultimately responsible. The ATIP Advisor attended several ATIP training courses during the fiscal year, which were offered by the Treasury Board Secretariat, including information sessions related to the Info Source publication, as well as information related to section 21 of the AIA, concerning operations of government. Additionally, the ATIP Advisor attended in June 2009, the yearly 3-day Access & Privacy Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, sponsored by the University of Alberta. Both the former ATIP Coordinator and the ATIP Advisor attended the ATIP Generation Conference in Ottawa in May of 2009, and the annual Canadian Access and Privacy Association (CAPA) Conference in November of 2009, at Landsdowne Park in Ottawa, Ontario.
Complaints and Appeals
No new complaints or appeals were received by the OCL or from the Office of the Information Commissioner during 2009–2010. However, a complaint was resolved during the 2009–2010 fiscal year. It related to a request under the Access to Information Act (AIA), initially received in 2005, when the former ORL was still part of Industry Canada. The ORL was named as the government institution that was the subject of the investigation, essentially transferring the complaint from Industry Canada to the ORL. The complainant alleged that the exclusion invoked by the former ORL was not properly applied.
Specifically, the complainant alleged that the exclusion invoked by the former ORL, related to subsection 68(a) of the AIA, concerning published material or material available for purchase by the public, was not properly applied. The ORL (now OCL) had refused to provide a copy of the Registration database for a certain period of time specified in the request. The OCL considered this information to be readily available to the public, as published material. Following an investigation by the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OCL agreed to resolve the complaint by providing the data in an alternative format.
The information was provided on a compact disc to the complainant, which contained raw data from the Registry of Lobbyists, without any codes, passwords or proprietary software of the OCL, for reasons of security and data integrity. Subsequently, in a letter received by the OCL dated February 4, 2010, from the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, the complaint was recorded as having been resolved. The complaint was resolved at a cost of $3,850 in programmer salary expenses, which was absorbed by the OCL.
In the future, should the OCL receive similar requests, it will take steps to recover the costs associated with providing alternative formats, such as compact discs, from the applicants, as allowed under the AIA and specified under the AIA Regulations. However, the OCL is currently undertaking initiatives with Information Technology (IT) specialists to help the public download data and reports from the Registry.
Appeals to the Federal Court
There were no appeals filed during the above period.
Consultations Completed for Other Institutions
There were two consultations completed for other institutions during the last fiscal year. One request was from Treasury Board Secretariat and the other was from Public Works and Government Services Canada, both asking for the release of certain information that pertained to the OCL. In both cases, the OCL concluded that the information in question could be released with no exemptions or exclusions warranted.
New/Revised Policies, Guidelines and Procedures Implemented
Due to the complaint referred to in the above Complaints and Appeals Section, which was resolved after several years, it was decided that the OCL would undertake procedures to make searches of the Registry of Lobbyists more user friendly and help eliminate the need to ask for data to be transferred to alternative formats, such as a compact disc. The OCL is accomplishing this by working with the IT programmers to enable the public to download data and reports using certain parameters and enable them to access the information they find useful, more readily.
Access to these reports will be more user-friendly and flexible, utilizing various formats such as customized charts, graphs, and tables. During the next fiscal year, the OCL intends to make these new features available to the public, once the programming work is completed.
The OCL is undertaking steps to make the Registry of Lobbyists increasingly accessible to the Canadian public by optimizing the use of technology to make more information available in various formats and reports. This will lead to greater transparency about lobbyists and will thereby help to instil confidence in the integrity of federal government decision-making.