2011-12 Annual Report on the Administration of the Access to Information ActApril 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is pleased to submit to Parliament its annual report on the administration of the Access to Information Act for the fiscal year commencing April 1, 2011 and ending March 31, 2012. This report is submitted in accordance with section 72 of the Act.
The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of government agency such as CIHR.
CIHR is the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in Canada. The CIHR concept is unique - a multi-disciplinary approach organized through a framework of 13 "virtual" institutes each dedicated to a specific research area, linking and supporting researchers pursuing common goals. Institutes bring together researchers who approach health challenges from different disciplinary perspectives, drawing on the combined strengths of these approaches.
According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act, the mandate of CIHR is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system.
CIHR reports to Parliament through the Minister of Health.
CIHR is led by a President and a Governing Council comprised of up to 20 members appointed by Order-in-Council. The Governing Council sets the overall strategic direction, goals and policies. It establishes, maintains, and terminates Health Research Institutes and determines the mandate of each. As outlined in the legislation, the Governing Council is responsible for the management of CIHR, including: developing its strategic direction, goals and policies; evaluating its performance, approving its budget; establishing a peer review process for research proposals submitted to CIHR; approving funding for research; approving other expenditures to carry out its objective; establishing policies that encourage consultation and collaboration with persons and organizations that have an interest in health research; and dealing with any other matter that the Governing Council considers related to the affairs of CIHR.
More information on CIHR is available on CIHR's website.
CIHR’s administration of its Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) activities is in accordance with the government’s stated principles that government information should be available to the public with only specific and limited exceptions. Furthermore, CIHR treats personal information in compliance with the code of fair information practice express in the Privacy Act.
Organization and Delegation of Authority
The President of CIHR is the designated head of the institution for the purposes of the Access to Information Act. In accordance with his authority under Section 73, the President has designated the Chief Financial Officer to exercise any of his powers, duties or functions under the Act. He has also designated the Director of Finance and the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator to exercise most of these duties and functions.
A copy of the Delegation Order is attached as Appendix A.
The ATIP Coordinator is the only CIHR employee with full-time responsibilities related to the administration of the Access to Information Act. She is responsible for managing CIHR’s responses to formal Access to Information Act requests, for providing advice and training to CIHR managers and staff, for drafting reports, and for developing and updating CIHR’s chapters in the public repositories of institutional information holdings (Info Source) maintained by the Treasury Board Secretariat. She is also responsible for developing and implementing policies, guidelines, and procedures to ensure that CIHR meets its responsibilities under the Act. She is tasked with the same duties and responsibilities with respect to the administration of the Privacy Act.
Disposition of Requests
CIHR received 22 requests under the Access to Information Act in 2011-2012 compared to 12 requests in 2010-2012. Four requests were brought forward from the previous fiscal year and 6 were carried forward to the next fiscal year. A total of 20 requests were completed. A statistical summary showing the disposition of these requests is attached as Appendix B.
Twelve of the requests were submitted from academia, seven by the public, two from media and one by an organization.
Four requests resulted in the full disclosure of the requested information. Twelve requests resulted in partial disclosure as some information was withheld based on exemption provisions and four requests no records existed.
Twelve of the requests were completed in thirty or fewer days and four requests in one hundred and twenty days or under. Four requests required more than one hundred and eighty one days to complete.
In the twelve requests that resulted in partial disclosures, the Access to Information Act exemptions cited by CIHR, were Sections 19, 20 and 21.
The ATIP Office deals with both formal requests made pursuant to the Act and informal requests and provides functional advice and guidance to managers and employees concerning the release of information and protection of privacy.
Owing to the difficulty of tracking all of the operational costs related to the administration of the Act, the costs and person year usage statistics are conservative estimates. Almost all costs are attributable to salary, including fractions of the salaries of the managers and employees who are drawn into work related to the Act.
Training and Education
CIHR delivered two awareness sessions on the Access to Information Act to staff in 2011-2012, to eighteen employees.
The ATIP Coordinator attended the annual Canadian Access and Privacy Association workshop as well as various workshops organized by the Treasury Board Secretariat throughout the fiscal year. These workshops provide valuable information on trends and best practices within the ATIP community, updates on recent complaints and court cases, and tools to help improve service standards within the field.
Policies, Guidelines and Procedures
Two new procedures were completed and implemented during the reporting period; a process for formal access to information requests and a process on complaints received from the Office of the Information Commissioner at CIHR.
One outstanding complaint was carried over from the reporting period 2009-2010. The requester alleged that CIHR had not provided all of the documents responsive to the request. This complaint was still under investigation at the end of the reporting period.
Three new complaints were received during the current reporting period.
Two of the complainants alleged CIHR improperly applied exemptions.
The third complainant alleged CIHR failed to respond to the access request within the time frame.
The ATIP Office provided a copy of each of the access to information and processing files to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC).
The OIC investigations remained under way at the end of the current reporting period.
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