Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Newspaper Association Fifth Annual Freedom of Information Audit

Last month, the Canadian Newspaper Association released its 2009-2010 national freedom of information audit.

The annual exercise tests how readily officials disclose information that should be publicly available on request.

According to the authors:
"Federal institutions received lower grades than their provincial and municipal counterparts, and time extensions are one of the factors in that. While the requests filed for this audit are deliberately straightforward, seeking records that should be easily found and released, auditors were nonetheless subjected to a disproportionate share of extensions at the federal level."
The authors write that some examples - good and bad - stood out in this year's audit:

Among the bad:
  • The Province of Prince Edward Island for refusing to release press briefing materials on H1N1 flu on the basis that they constituted advice to officials
  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for, once again, proving to be one of the least open federal institutions. The CBC prepared a fee estimate of $20,825 for contracts valued at less than $10,000 for goods and services, saying it has many business units and each one contracts with a large numbers of providers. Canada Post, another large crown corporation, said it could prepare the same information for $20. The CBC also assessed a fee estimate of $95 to provide the number of cells phones and Blackberries and the charges for two fiscal years
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for its $5,701 fee estimate to provide the number of cellphones and the costs for two fiscal years.
Among the good:
  • The City of Charlottetown for responding to our requests even though it is not formally covered byaccess legislation in PEI
  • The federal department of Health for being the only federal institution to release a list of contracts in Excel format when asked
315 requests were sent to 11 federal departments and crown corporations, 39 municipalities, departments and ministries of 10 provinces and the Yukon and 10 universities. The same questions were asked of all levels of government to ensure consistency.

All three levels of government were asked to provide:

  • Their plans to respond to H1N1 or any widespread pandemic
  • The number of cell phones supplied to the institution’s employees, and the costs for the last two fiscal years
  • Receipts and reimbursements to a single key official for a specified business trip

Other requests included:

  • Federal institutions were also asked to provide an electronic list of their contracts valued under $10,000 for goods and services
  • Municipal governments were asked to list attendance records of councillors at council meetings, and provide a list of municipal land deals for the previous year
[Source: Slaw.ca]

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:48 pm

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