Annual Report on the Access to Information Act for the period ending March 31, 2013
3. Statistical Report on the Administration of the Access to Information Act
This section provides an interpretation of select statistics on the processing of requests made to Elections Canada under the Access to Information Act. The full figures for the 2012–2013 fiscal year are provided in the attached report (see appendices II and III).
3.1 Number and Origin of Formal Requests
Elections Canada received 101 new formal requests for information under the Access to Information Act during the period of April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013. This was down from a peak of 136 requests received in the previous year. In light of that higher volume, attributed to interest in the 2011 general election, 33 requests had not been fully processed during the previous reporting period. Therefore, a total of 134 formal requests required action in 2012–2013.
By the end of the fiscal year, more requests were completed than had been received. This was the highest number of requests processed in a year by Elections Canada, with 115 requests completed – an increase of 10 percent over the last year. In 2012–2013, 86 percent of all requests were closed, compared to 76 percent in 2011–2012. Nineteen requests were left outstanding, being 42 percent fewer than in the previous year.
Most requests were initiated by the media (38), followed by organizations (31), the public (29) and, lastly, private business (3). Organizations may include associations, unions, non-profit or non-governmental organizations, offices of members of Parliament, and political parties.
3.2 Disposition of Completed Requests
Of the 115 requests completed during the reporting period, 15 resulted in full disclosure and 69 resulted in partial disclosure of the information requested. Eleven requests related to records that were totally exempted. Four requests were for information that was already published on the Elections Canada website and was therefore excluded under paragraph 68(a) of the Access to Information Act; requesters were instead provided with a direct link to the material. The ATIP Office was unable to process 16 requests – either because the information requested did not exist or because there was insufficient information to locate the records.
In 2012–2013, 13 percent of requests led to records being fully disclosed, down from 27 percent in the previous year. Records were partially disclosed 60 percent of the time, compared to 43 percent in 2011–2012. The increase in partial disclosure is attributed to more requests involving sensitive records.
3.3 Completion Time
In 2012–2013, a total of 64 requests (56 percent) were completed within 30 days, compared to 80 percent in the previous fiscal year. Thirty-six requests (31 percent) were closed within 31 to 60 days, 10 requests (9 percent) within 61 to 120 days, and 5 requests (4 percent) in more than 120 days.
These longer completion times are a result of the volume of requests processed and a greater number of requests being broad in scope or involving sensitive records. The ATIP Office closed more requests in 2012–2013 than in any previous year by working on more cases simultaneously, rather than closing individual requests quickly.
3.4 Exemptions to the Release of Information
The attached statistical report (Appendix II) includes the number of requests for which Elections Canada invoked specific types of exemptions and provides details on these exemptions. If an exemption is invoked several times in the same request, it is reported only once.
As in previous years, the most common exemption applied was under subsection 19(1) of the Access to Information Act. It was used to protect personal information for 59 requests. For 33 requests, Elections Canada invoked section 16.3. This exemption allows the Chief Electoral Officer to withhold information obtained or created in the course of investigations, examinations or reviews conducted under the Canada Elections Act. For 13 requests, records were exempted under section 23 as being subject to solicitor-client privilege.
Sections 19(1), 16.3 and 23 were each invoked more frequently in 2012–2013. Use of subsection 19(1) increased by 64 percent over the last year, while the use of both sections 16.3 and 23 more than doubled. This higher use of exemptions can be attributed to requests for more sensitive information – for example, records related to investigations of deceptive communications with electors and to reviews of election officer compliance with voting day procedures during the 2011 election.
3.5 Extension of the Time Limit
Paragraph 9(1)(b) of the Access to Information Act provides for the extension of the statutory time limits if consultations are necessary. Paragraph 9(1)(a) allows an extension if a request is for a large volume of records and unreasonably interferes with the operations of the institution. Elections Canada took 31 extensions during the reporting period, largely because of the workload associated with processing more complex requests. Twenty-nine of these extensions were taken under paragraph 9(1)(a).
It is the practice of the ATIP Office to provide partial preliminary release of records before the extended due date whenever possible.
The ATIP Office responded to 11 formal consultations from other government institutions, nearly twice as many as in the previous year. Each response was delivered in fewer than 30 days. At the beginning of the 2013–2014 reporting period, one consultation remained outstanding.
3.7 Fees and Costs
The ATIP Office collected application fees of $570 during the fiscal year. The budget for salaries of the employees assigned to the administration of the Access to Information Act totalled $133,697, while the budget for operating and maintenance costs (including consultant services) came to $126,577.