ARCHIVED - Access to Information Act
Annual Report

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April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008

Table of contents

Introduction

The Access to Information Act (ATIA) came into force on July 1, 1983.

The ATIA gives Canadian citizens, permanent residents and any person and corporation in Canada a right of access to information contained in government records, subject to certain specific and limited exceptions. 

Section 72 of the ATIA requires that the head of every government institution submit yearly to Parliament an annual report on the administration of the Act within their institution.

The following annual report is intended to describe how the Public Service Commission of Canada administered its responsibilities in relation to the Act during fiscal year 2007-2008

Part I — General Information on the Public Service Commission

Mission, Vision and Values - Striving for Excellence

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

The PSC safeguards the integrity of staffing in the public service and the political impartiality of public servants. It develops policies and guidance for public service managers and holds them accountable for their staffing decisions. The PSC conducts audits and investigations to confirm the effectiveness of the staffing system and to make improvements. As an independent agency, the PSC reports its results to Parliament.

The PSC recruits talented Canadians to the public service, drawn from across the country. It continually renews its recruitment services to meet the evolving 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 adheres to the following organizational values:

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

Mandate and Strategic Outcome

Our Mandate

The mandate of the Commission is described in the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

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 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.

Under section sections 11 and 12 of the PSEA, the PSC is responsible more specifically for:

  • appointing or providing for the appointment of persons to or from the public service; 
  • conducting investigations and audits;
  • administering the provisions of the Act relating to political activities of employees and deputy heads; and
  • performing any other public service functions assigned by the Governor in Council.

Strategic Outcome

The PSC's strategic outcome has remained constant - to provide Canadians with a highly competent, non-partisan and representative public service, able to provide service in both official languages, in which appointments are based on the values of fairness, access, representativeness and transparency remains the same.

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 a 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 Activities of the PSC

The Public Service Commission has a Departmental Coordinator of Access to Information is responsible and accountable for the development, coordination and implementation of effective policies, guidelines, systems and procedures to enable the efficient processing of requests under the Access to Information Act.  

The Coordinator is also responsible for related policy, systems and procedures emanating from the Act, such as the government's policy on information collection  and public opinion researches.

The activities of the Coordinator include:

  • processing requests made under the Access to Information Act;
  • acting as spokesperson for the PSC in dealings with the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Information Commissioner, and other government departments and agencies related to the Access to Information Act;
  • responding to consultation requests submitted by other federal institutions for PSC documents;
  • reviewing and approving information collection in accordance with the Government Policy on Information Collection and Public Opinion Research;
  • preparing the annual report 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 the Access to Information Act by the PSC;
  • promoting awareness to ensure the PSC's responsiveness to the obligations of the Act;
  • monitoring the PSC's compliance with the Access to Information Act, regulations and relevant procedures and policies; and
  • providing, to PSC employees, advice and awareness sessions on the provisions of the Access to Information Act and Treasury Board policies and their impact on various program initiatives.

Part II — Report on the Access to Information Act

Highlights

Requests received

The number of requests received under the Access to Information Act (ATIA) has decreased since last year. From April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008, the Public Service Commission (PSC) received 50 new requests while the previous year, in 2006-2007, it received 70 requests.

Although the number of requests was smaller, the number of pages of information reviewed was much larger: 13, 000 pages of records in 2007-2008 versus 7,000 the previous year. 

Requests completed

As in previous years, the requests completed covered the entire gamut of the PSC's activities. More specifically:

  • 23 requests (43%) related to contracts, call-ups for temporary help, lists of new term and casual employees, and telecommunications costs.        
  • 3 requests (6%) pertained to various tests, evaluations and assessments done by the PSC and more specifically for statistical information regarding language tests.
  • 13 requests (24%) pertained to staffing-related activities such as staffing of executive level positions, priority administration files, staffing delegation statistics, establishment of tests and standards for selection, and Employment Equity initiatives.
  • 4 requests (8%) were from individuals seeking miscellaneous information.
  • 3 requests (6%) pertained to recourse: appeal decisions and transcriptions of cassettes used during the appeal hearing.
  • 7 requests (13 %) were not processed by the PSC. The requests were either abandoned, transferred or treated informally.

The PSC carried over 3 requests from this reporting period into the next reporting period (2008-2009).

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 view them.

Completion time

This year, 53 requests were completed.

  • 42 requests (80%) were completed within 30 days;
  • 4 requests (7%) were completed within 31 to 60 days;
  • 3 requests (6%) were completed between 61 to 120 days, and
  • 4 (7%) were completed in 121 days or over.
  • (94%) of the requests were completed within the prescribed legislative time frame.

Consultations

The PSC received 21 requests for consultations from other government departments and agencies. These requests amounted to a review of 400 pages of information. After a thorough review of the files, the PSC determined that in 13 of the 21 requests, information pertaining to the PSC could be released in full.

The requests for consultation pertained to the Public Service Employment Act, staffing and priority administration files, second language evaluation and briefing books material.

The PSC itself consulted other government departments and agencies for seven (7) of its requests.

Complaints

Five (5) complaints regarding requests addressed to the PSC were lodged with the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) during this reporting period, and three (3) were closed.

  • Three (3) complaints were for extensions beyond the original statutory time limits in order to respond to the requests.  Given the large amount of pages of records (more than 1,000 pages each ) that needed to be reviewed and since consultations with other government departments was necessary, the PSC required extensions to the statutory time line of thirty (30) days.  The Information Commissioner continues its investigations into these complaints. 
  • One (1) complaint was made by an applicant who thought the PSC had a copy of his test results for a hiring process that was conducted by another department.  After verification, it was confirmed that the PSC had not conducted this test on behalf of the department, and that it did not have any record of the test. The complaint was deemed unfounded and the case was closed.
  • One (1) complaint dealt with the refusal of access. The ATIP Office wrongly withheld  information  under section 20 (third party information) for portions of callup records.  Realising it's mistake the  ATIP Office provided full disclosure to the applicant and this, prior to receiving the complaint from the OIC.  This complaint was deemed founded. 
  • One (1) complaint about refusal of access and missing records, received in October 2006, was closed during this reporting period.  The PSC had initially refused to release personal information about an individual to another individual. This complaint was deemed well founded. Under the guidance of the OIC, the PSC released portions of documents that did not contain personal information and attested that no other records regarding this complaint existed at the PSC.

Advice and Training

The Access to Information and Privacy Office continued to provide advice and training on the provisions of the PA and its impact on PSC programs and initiatives.

  • Six (6) awareness sessions were provided to 76 PSC employees from the Audit and Data Services Branch, the Investigations Branch, and the Executive Councelling Services of the Personnel Psychology Centre.
  • 140 individuals including PSC managers, public servants and members of the public consulted the office for advice on the provisions of the ATIA related to various PSC topics like political activities, the Public Service Employment Act and Regulations, investigations and recourse files. (Almost doubling the number of requests made in previous years.)
  • Finally, the ATIP Office responded to six informal requests over the course of the reporting period.

Appendix - Statistical Report

Statistical Report on the disposition of complaints by category

Complaints processed

  • Received during 2007-08: 5
  • Closed during 2007-08: 3
  • Carried forward to 2008-09: 3

Complaints received for:

  • Delays/extensions: 3
  • Non-disclosure/exemptions/missing records: 2

Closed

  • Settled after investigation
    • Delays/extensions: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions/missing records: 0
  • Resolved
    • Delays/extensions: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions/missing records: 0
  • Withdrawn
    • Delays/extensions: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions/missing records: 0
  • Founded
    • Delays/extensions: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions/missing records: 2
  • Unfounded
    • Delays/extensions: 0
    • Non-disclosure/exemptions/missing records: 1