ARCHIVED - Access to Information and Privacy Acts
Annual Reports

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April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007

Table of contents

Introduction

The Access to Information Act (ATIA) and the Privacy Act (PA) were proclaimed into force on July 1, 1983.

The ATIA gives Canadian citizens, permanent residents and any person and corporation present in Canada a right of access to information contained in government records, subject to certain specific and limited exceptions. The PA extends to individuals the right of access to information about themselves held by the government, subject to specific and limited exceptions. The latter Act also protects the individuals' privacy by preventing others from having access to their personal information and gives individuals substantial control over its collection, use and disclosure.

Section 72 of the ATIA and Section 72 of the PA require that the head of every government institution prepare for submission to Parliament an annual report on the administration of the Acts within the institution during each financial year.

The following annual reports are intended to describe how the Public Service Commission of Canada administered its responsibilities in the fiscal year 2006-2007 in relation to these Acts.

Part I — General Information on the Public Service Commission

Mission, Vision and Values - Striving for Excellence

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is dedicated to building a public service that strives for excellence. We protect merit, non-partisanship, representativeness and the use of both official languages.

We safeguard the integrity of staffing in the public service and the political impartiality of public servants. We develop policies and guidance for public service managers and hold them accountable for their staffing decisions. We conduct audits and investigations to confirm the effectiveness of the staffing system and to make improvements. As an independent agency, we report our results to Parliament.

We recruit talented Canadians to the public service, drawn from across the country. We continually renew our recruitment services to meet the needs of a modern and innovative public service.

Values to Guide our Actions

In serving Parliament and Canadians, the PSC is guided by and proudly adhere to the following organizational values:

  • Integrity in our actions;
  • Fairness in our decisions;
  • Respect in our relationships; and
  • Transparency in our communications.

Our Mandate

The mandate of the Commission is provided for in the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA s. 11 and 12). It is namely responsible for:

  • appointing, or providing for the appointment of, persons to or from within the public service in accordance with the PSEA;
  • conducting investigations and audits in accordance with the PSEA;
  • administering the provisions of the PSEA relating to political activities of employees and deputy heads;
  • performing any functions in relation to the public service that are assigned by the Governor in Council.

The PSC is an independent agency reporting to Parliament, mandated to safeguard the integrity of the public service staffing system and the political impartiality of public servants. The PSC's mandate combines staffing-related authorities with oversight functions. The PSC also provides staffing and assessment services to help federal organizations meet the changing needs of the public service. Under the system of delegated authority provided by the new Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), the independence of the PSC, particularly with respect to its responsibility to oversee the integrity of the appointment system and preserve the non-partisanship of the public service, is essential.

The PSC's strategic outcome of providing Canadians with a highly competent, non-partisan and representative public service fully supports the Government of Canada's outcomes. The PSC is a key player in strengthening and modernizing public sector management through its policy, oversight and service delivery roles. The PSC also contributes to the Government of Canada's outcome of fostering an inclusive society that promotes linguistic duality and diversity, by ensuring that federal public service staffing policies protect merit, non-partisanship, representativeness and the use of both official languages.

Access to Information and Privacy Activities

The Departmental Coordinator of Access to Information and Privacy is accountable for the development, coordination and implementation of effective policies, guidelines, systems and procedures to enable efficient processing of requests under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The Coordinator is also responsible for related policies, systems and procedures emanating from the Acts, such as the government's policy on information collection and public opinion research.

The activities of the Access to Information and Privacy office include:

  • processing requests under both Acts;
  • acting as spokesperson for the Public Service Commission in dealings with the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Information and Privacy Commissioners, and other government departments and agencies regarding the application of both Acts as they relate to the PSC;
  • responding to consultation requests submitted by other federal institutions on PSC documents located in their files while processing their requests;
  • reviewing and approving information collections in accordance with the Government Policy on Information Collection and Public Opinion Research;
  • implementing and promoting the use of the Treasury Board Privacy Impact Assessment Policy;
  • preparing annual reports to Parliament and other statutory reports, as well as other material that may be required by central agencies;
  • developing policies, procedures and guidelines for the orderly implementation of both Acts by the PSC;
  • promoting awareness of both Acts to ensure the PSC's responsiveness to the obligations imposed on the government;
  • monitoring the PSC's compliance with both Acts, regulations and relevant procedures and policies; and
  • providing advice and awareness sessions on the provisions of both Acts to PSC managers regarding the impact of various program initiatives.

Part II — Report on the Access to Information Act

Highlights

During the reporting period of April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007, the Public Service Commission (PSC) received a total of 79 new requests under the ATIA. Eight requests were carried over from the previous year. The number of requests has decreased since last year from 98 to 79.

Again this year, the requests received covered the entire range of the PSC's responsibilities as the Parliamentary agency responsible for the safeguarding of the integrity and the nonpartisanship of the appointment process. More specifically:

  • 35 requests (44%) related to contracts, call-ups for temporary help, lists of new term and casual employees, and telecommunications.
  • 9 requests (11%) pertained to various tests, evaluations and assessments done by the PSC. Most of the requests were asking for statistical data concerning language testing issues.
  • 6 requests (8%) touched on staffing operations including staffing for executive level positions and priority administration files. Other requests dealt with statistics related to the administration of staffing delegation, establishment of tests and standards for selection, and Employment Equity initiatives.
  • 6 requests (8%) dealt with miscellaneous issues.
  • 5 requests (6%) pertained to recourse issues, all of which sought information related to investigations, appeal decisions and transcriptions of cassettes used during the appeal hearing.
  • 18 requests (23 %) were not processed by the PSC, because the requests were either abandoned, transferred or treated informally.

As was the case last year, the preferred method of access reported by the PSC, as well as by departments and agencies throughout the federal government, is to receive copies of government records as opposed to simply viewing them.

Of the 81 requests completed during the reporting period, 66 (82%) were completed within 30 days, nine (11%) within 31 to 60 days, six (7%) were completed between 61 to 120 days. The PSC responded to 95% of the requests within the legislative time frame.

Two complaints were received from the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) during this reporting period. One complaint on refusal of access was resolved and considered well founded; the second complaint was on the ATIP Office's use of exemptions, and the case is still active.

It should also be noted that the PSC received 43 consultations from other government departments and agencies. After reviewing the files, the PSC determined that information pertaining to the PSC could be released in full in 31 of the 43 consultation requests. Institutions consulted the PSC on matters relating to the Public Service Modernisation Act (PSMA), PSEA, staffing and priority administration files, second language evaluation and briefing books material.

The PSC also undertook consultations with other government departments for 14% of its requests.

The Access to Information and Privacy office has continued to maintain its role of providing advice and training on the provisions of the ATIA to PSC managers regarding the impact of various program initiatives. This year, two ATIP awareness sessions were provided to PSC staff. The ATIP office had to turn down requests for training/awareness sessions because of scarce resources. However, for 2007-2008, the issue has been resolved and more training sessions are going to be offered. With regards to advice provided to PSC managers, the ATIP Office was consulted over 80 times during the year on topics ranging from political activities, the PSMA, the new PSEA and its regulations, investigations under the new PSEA and recourse files.

Finally, the ATIP Office responded to five informal requests over the course of the reporting period.

Statistics - Access to Information Act

Requests processed

  • Carried over from 2005-06: 8
  • Received during 2006-07: 79
  • Completed during 2006-07: 81
  • Carried forward to 2007-08: 6

Completion time

  • Under 30 days: 66
  • 31 - 60 days: 9
  • 61 - 120 days:  6
  • over 121 days: 0

Disposition of completed requests

  • All disclosed:  31
  • Disclosed in part: 30
  • Nothing disclosed (excluded): 0
  • Nothing disclosed (exempted): 0
  • Transferred: 4
  • Unable to process:  6
  • Withdrawn by applicant: 9
  • Treated informally: 1

Source of requests received

  • Media: 1
  • Academia: 0
  • Business: 8
  • Organization: 5
  • Public: 65

Extensions

  • Under 30 days: 8
  • Over 30 days: 6
  • Method of access
  • Copies given: 56
  • Examination: 2
  • Copies and Examination: 3

Complaints processed

  • Received during 2006-07: 2
  • Completed during 2006-07: 1
  • Carried forward to 2007-08: 1

Disposition of complaints by category:

  • Resolved
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure: 0
  • Withdrawn
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure: 0
  • Founded
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure: 1
  • Unfounded
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure: 0

Fees

  • Application: $450
  • Other processing fees:  0
  • Fees waived: $427.20

Costs

  • Full-time equivalent: 0.33
  • Salary: $31,022
  • Non salary: $9,028
  • Total: $40,050

Historical comparisons

Requests
  1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003 2003-2004 2004-2005 2005-2006 2006-2007
Requests received 22 17 40 48 62 67 98 79
Requests completed 29 17 38 50 57 70 94 81

Exemptions invoked
  1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003 2003-2004 2004-2005 2005-2006 2006-2007
13(1)(a) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
18 (b) 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0
19 (1) 7 2 5 8 27 27 36 28
20 (1)(a) 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
20 (1)(b) 0 0 0 0 2 3 5 0
20 (1)c) 0 0 0 0 1 3 5 2
21 (1)(a) 2 0 0 0 2 4 5 5
21 (1)(b) 0 0 0 0 2 4 2 3
21 (1)c) 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 3
21 (1)(d) 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2
22 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 3
23 4 0 0 1 3 3 2 2
24 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
26 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2

Exclusions invoked
  1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003 2003-2004 2004-2005 2005-2006 2006-2007
68(b) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4
69(1)(a) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

Part III — Report on the Privacy Act

Highlights

During the reporting period of April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007, the Public Service Commission (PSC) received a total of 36 requests under the PA. Four requests were carried over from

2005-2006. The number of requests received was consistent with last year's figures.

This year, the requests covered the following range of activities:

  • 12 requests (33%) pertained to staffing-related activities. The majority of these requests dealt with individuals seeking their personal information contained in competition files, priority administration files, or test results obtained during the assessment part of a competition.
  • 7 requests (19%) were from individuals seeking information contained in investigation and appeal files held by the former Recourse Branch (now Investigations Branch).
  • 7 requests (19%) pertained to individuals seeking feedback regarding their own Second Language Evaluation. 
  • 2 requests (6%) dealt with individuals seeking their own personal information on miscellaneous issues.
  • 8 requests (22 %) were not processed by the PSC. The requests were either abandoned or records were not found because the requesters thought that the PSC was responsible for staffing all positions in the public service.

Of the 35 cases completed during the reporting period, 21 (71%) requests were completed within 30 days, nine (26%) within 31 to 60 days and one (3%) within 61 to 120 days. Of the 35 requests, 32 were completed within their legislative time period (91% compliance rate). Of the three late files, two were closed on day 31 (as opposed to day 30), and one was completed on day 69 (as opposed to day 60).

There were a total of three complaints received by the Privacy Commissioner during this reporting period. One related to refusal of access (missing information). The other two complaints alleged improper disclosure of personal information contained in appeal files posted on the web. The three cases are still active, along with nine others, which were received in previous years.

There were no Privacy complaints closed during this reporting period.

Consultations were conducted with several government departments, mostly with regards to recourse, investigations and competitive processes. The PSC received five consultations from other institutions and recommended full disclosure in three of the cases, and one of the remaining two was abandoned.

As discussed in the Access to Information section of this report, the ATIP Office has continued to maintain its role of providing advice and training on the provisions of the PA to PSC managers regarding the impact of various program initiatives.

A new initiative taken in 2006-2007 was to review staffing audits and studies prepared by the Audit Branch, prior to their publication to identify personal information. The ATIP Office reviewed seven external audits prior to their public disclosure. Also new for 2007-2008 is for the ATIP Office to review Informatics Technology Project Initiation Forms for potential PIA requirements.

Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) and Preliminary Privacy Impact Assessment (PPIA)

Priority Information Management System for the Priority Administration Section of the Delegation Directorate, Policy Branch (PIA started in 2004-2005, submitted to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner with a Threat Risk Assessment (TRA) and action plan in June of 2006). The Communications strategy for the PSC is pending, but is expected to be completed in 2007-2008.)

Executive Summary

The Public Service Employment Act (PSEA)and Regulations (PSER) provide certain persons with an entitlement, for limited periods, to be appointed ahead of all others to any position in the public service for which they are qualified. An entitlement is a personal right guaranteed by the PSEA and PSER, and is an exception to the normal application of the merit principle. It applies to all positions regardless of department, location, tenure, occupation and most selection processes. Entitlements are normally the result of actions in which the department is directly involved, for example, authorizing certain leaves of absence, backfilling the position of an employee on leave, and/or declaring employees surplus or laid-off.

The entitlement of priority persons provides for the appointment, without competition, in absolute priority (before all other persons), to positions for which they are qualified, unless their appointment would result in another person becoming entitled to a priority (i.e. declared surplus). Priority persons must simply be qualified for a position, not necessarily the best qualified among other interested persons, in order to be entitled to be appointed. Priority appointments are not subject to recourse.

In general, priority entitlements apply to any and all appointments processed under the PSEA. The entitlement is national and interdepartmental in scope. Priority entitlements do not apply to deployments, secondments/assignments, acting appointments, and casual appointments. Departments are obligated to make priority appointments before conducting recruitment or internal staffing actions.

The PSC implemented the Priority Information Management System (PIMS), a national, interdepartmental and web-based inventory that matches priority persons with vacant positions. The PIMS lists registered priority persons in an inventory, which is then searched by departments as a first step in staffing or recruitment.

The PIMS replaces the Integrated Staffing System used by the PSC Priority Officers and the internet-based forms that departmental staffing personnel have been utilizing in the priority entitlement process.

As the PIMS involves personal information related to the priority persons, this PIA examines the privacy-related impact of the PIMS, and proposes appropriate mitigation strategies for the identified risks.

Public Service Resourcing System (PSRS) for the Staffing and Assessment Services Branch (PIA and TRA were conducted during the 2005-2006 reporting period; the Action Plan is being prepared. The three documents are to be submitted to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner)

Executive Summary

In recent years, the PSC has received approximately a million applications every year. Managing such a large volume of resumes is cumbersome and has been handled in a variety of ways by the various hiring departments across the public service. In past years, the primary process used has been manual in nature which does not address the needs of users. Additionally, such processes are not addressing the increase in applications received, by the coming into force, in April 2006, of the National Area of Selection policy, nor will it comply with the modernized resource approach mandated by the Public Service Modernization Act.

The primary purpose of the PSRS is to improve the process of recruiting outside of the public service. PSRS allows hiring agents to create customized job applications and advertisements for positions that need to be filled. The Canadian public can, in turn, view and apply for these postings and the system will use its automated screening functionality to provide departmental hiring managers with a filtered set of referrals.

PSC HR consultants and/or HR assistants work with client departments to create advertisements and manage the referral process. In 2006, however, some government departments were given access to use the PSRS system to directly advertise external positions, develop questionnaires, and screen referrals.

The PIA examines the privacy-related impact of the PSRS and proposes appropriate mitigation strategies for the identified risks. The personal information that will be managed by the PSRS includes:

  • Administrator contact information;
  • Hiring manager and HR Officer contact information;
  • Applicant test information;
  • Applicant personal and contact information;
  • Applicant education and resume related information; and
  • Applicant employment equity information (self-disclosed).

NVivo Application for the Information Integration Division for the Audit Branch: (A PPIA and TRA were conducted over the 2005-2006 reporting period, and a PIA during this reporting period. An action plan is being worked on, and the four documents will be submitted to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner shortly after.)

Executive Summary

NVivo is a software designed to facilitate qualitative analysis. In addition to its strengths, it merges different textual sources and develops qualitative databases. NVivo is also able to produce tables that integrate qualitative and quantitative information. Hence, it provides efficient and quick cross-referencing and comparison of key information to be used by different key players within the PSC when dealing with staffing issues.

With the coming into force of the new PSEA on December 31st, 2005, the PSC needs to use all the resources and the information available to carry out its functions, particularly its oversight role. The principal mandate of the Information Integration Division is the integration of qualitative and quantitative sources of information as well as making analyses on short and long term staffing processes, in partnership with other sections of the PSC.

The strategic business intelligence provided by NVivo will be used in order to support the role of surveillance and ensure the integrity of staffing processes. The information can be used for many purposes; including risk management framework, audit input, and all other specific analysis needs identified by other sections within the PSC. Access to the resulting information will not be shared with other departments, though the information may be used by senior PSC managers in meetings with other departments.

The NVivo software is currently used within the Information Integration Division of the Audit Branch, and the Accountability Directorate within the policy Branch.

As the volume of information is increasing and particularly when the information integration process – merging different data sources – is achieved, it will be important to assess the level of security in terms of storage, access and backup.

Investigations Management Information Services (IMIS) for the Investigation Branch (PIA was conducted during the 2006-2007 reporting period; the Action Plan is being prepared. The two documents are to be submitted to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner)

Executive Summary

The PSC's Investigations Branch (IB) carries out both PSC mandated and Deputy Head requested investigations. As well, the Branch provides Early Intervention (EI), when appropriate. Investigations are conducted using fair and thorough techniques to produce clear and concise reports.

The IB is implementing a new Web-based internal system known as the Investigation Management Information System (IMIS). This new information and file tracking system is used to address the IB's new operational needs and manage files and data relating to investigations conducted under the new PSEA. Under the PSEA, the PSC may receive information about a concern relating to staffing from a variety of sources, including: audit findings, individuals, internal information, media reports and others. Regardless of whether or not an investigation is conducted, the source of information is documented administratively and entered in the new IMIS for numerous purposes: to ensure timely response(s) to the originating source of the document/information, logistical and administrative support, manage workload, ensure the collection of quantitative data for report generation, establish service standards, etc..

As the implementation and use of the IMIS will involve the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, the PSC has initiated a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA).

Through the conduct of interviews and review of the documentation provided for PIA purposes, it was readily apparent that PSC officials wish to incorporate privacy and security as core elements of the use of IMIS. For example, the IMIS will collect very limited personal information related to the investigation process and will continue to contribute to minimizing the collection of personal information through the application of restrictive data entry strategies, such as minimizing the use of open text data entry fields.

Disclosure under Section 8(2) of the Privacy Act

The PSC also released personal information under section 8(2)(b) of the PA. Such releases were authorized in the context of the old PSEA (R.S.C., 1985, c. P-33), section 21(1) pertaining to appeal matters.

The PSC released an audit of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the Royal Canadian Mounted (CPC) Police in October 2005. Following our standard practice, this audit was also posted on the PSC website. The PSC included identifiable information on three employees of the CPC at Exhibits 1, 2 and 3 of the audit. The three employees filed complaints with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) which were determined to be well-founded. Following this, the PSC changed its administrative process to ensure personal information is not disclosed in the publication of audits, or that if it is to be disclosed, it is done so under the provision of section 8(2)(m)(I) of the Privacy Act and that the OPC be informed in accordance with section 8(5) of the Act. The PSC did not release any personal information under this provision for the 2006-2007 reporting period.

Similarly, when investigations are conducted under the authority of the new PSEA (2003, c. 22, ss. 12, 13), disclosure of personal information could occur in accordance with the provisions of section 19 of the new Public Service Employment Regulations (2005).

Statistics - Privacy Act

Requests processed

  • Carried over from 2005-06: 4
  • Received during 2006-07: 36
  • Completed during 2006-07: 35
  • Carried forward to 2007-08: 5

Completion time

  • Under 30 days: 25
  • 31 - 60 days:  9
  • 61 - 120 days: 1
  • Over 121 days: 0

Disposition of completed requests

  • All disclosed: 11
  • Disclosed in part: 16
  • Nothing disclosed (excluded): 0
  • Nothing disclosed (exempted):  0
  • Transferred: 0
  • Unable to process:  6
  • Withdrawn by applicant: 2

Extensions

  • Under 30 days (disruption of operations: 2
  • Under 30 days (consultations): 5
  • Translation: 0

Method of access

  • Copies given: 24
  • Examination:  1
  • Copies and examination: 2

Complaints processed

  • Received during 2006-07: 3
  • Completed during 2006-07: 0
  • Carried forward to 2007-08: 9

Disposition of complaints by category

  • Settled after investigation
    • Collection/Retention/Use/Disposal/disclosure: 0
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions: 0
  • Resolved
    • Collection/Retention/Use/Disposal/disclosure: 0
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions: 0
  • Withdrawn
    • Collection/Retention/Use/Disposal/disclosure: 0
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions: 0
  • Founded
    • Collection/Retention/Use/Disposal/disclosure: 0
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions: 0
  • Unfounded
    • Collection/Retention/Use/Disposal/disclosure: 0
    • Delays: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions: 0

Costs

  • Full-time equivalent: 0.33
  • Salary: $31,022
  • Non salary: $9,029
  • Total: $40,050

Historical comparisons

Requests
  1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003 2003-2004 2004-2005 2005-2006 2006-2007
Requests received 44 37 39 41 27 43 41 36
Requests completed 44 35 42 41 27 43 39 35

Exemptions invoked
  1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003 2003-2004 2004-2005 2005-2006 2006-2007
22 (1)(a) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
22 (1)(b) 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
25 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
26 12 9 15 15 8 19 11 15
27 5 1 1 0 0 2 1 1