Access to Information Database Updated to April 2005
The database has now been updated to include 2447 requests logged in April 2005.
ATIA requests submitted by journalists and Members of Parliament are usually tagged by federal agencies for special attention, which may cause delay in the processing of requests.
In some agencies, these requests are said to be "amberlighted." Roberts produces a monthly Amberlight Monitor. The one for April 2005 lists 191 new ATIA requests from the media or Parliament marked for "special handling" - impress your friends, explain to them what the government is worried about letting the public know.
On that note, the Canadian Newspaper Association last week released the findings from the Freedom of Information audit, the first of its kind as reported in the Toronto Star. 89 reporters from 45 daily newspapers requested information from government offices across Canada in an effort to determine how well officials were following the laws that give the public the right to know.
The first requests were made in person and, if the reporters were so directed, by phone. If unsuccessful, these attempts were followed up by the reporters with the forms, fees and letters required by the access-to-information laws fo the jurisdiction in question (federal, provincial or municipal).
According to The Star, reporters "visited city halls, police forces, school boards and federal government offices across Canada to test how bureaucrats administer laws protecting the public's right to government information. They found a confusing patchwork of policies across the country. Officials handed over records to just one in every three requesters who came in person. The rest remained locked tight in government filing cabinets as applicants were told they had to file time-consuming — and often expensive — formal requests under provincial or federal access laws."
"Even when the reporters then filed formal access requests, only 62 per cent of applicants ultimately won at least partial release of the basic public information."
In one typical case, a Toronto woman worried about the state of local parks made an access request to city officials to find out about park maintenance budgets. She was told she would have to pay costs of $12,960 for access to records on playground repairs.
Here is a list of the test questions used in the audit:
- When is the city going to repair (a street in my community)?
- May I have a copy of the priority list for road-repair projects in (my city/town) for this year?
- How many employees work for the municipality?
- Can I get a full report of sick days in 2004 for all municipal workers, by department and day of week?
- Number of public complaints filed against the local police service in 2004.
- Number of officers placed on suspension (paid or unpaid) in 2004 and the reasons.
- Number of sick days and amount of overtime logged by officers in 2004.
- How many local restaurants violated or failed to comply with health and safety standards in 2004?
- Provide a list of them, including all those charged or issued with warnings.
- Is (name of a local restaurant) safe to eat in?
- How many tests of drinking water in (this area/region) failed to meet provincial safety standards for drinking water?
- What are the classroom sizes, grade by grade, at (name of a local school) as of Jan. 31?
- How many incidents of violence and bullying have been reported at (the same local school) to the school board since the start of the 2004-2005 school year?
- How does this compare to the average?
- How much did your department spend in the last budget year on sick leave and temporary personnel?
- Please also state the number of employees and total payroll of your department
And it is growing worse.