The Yukon government’s access to information and privacy (ATIPP) office will be implementing a series of changes to improve efficiency and competency following an investigation by the Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner’s (IPC) office.
The changes include introducing two audit systems and clarifying internal policies and procedures to ensure legislated deadlines are met — and what to do if they’re not.
An investigator from the IPC launched an investigation into the ATIPP office, which falls under the Yukon government’s Department of Highways and Public Works, after receiving a complaint from the Yukon News in November 2019.
The News filed the complaint after receiving late responses, or no responses at all, to two access-to-information requests it filed that year.
Aidan Bell, an IPC investigator and compliance review officer, confirmed in a letter to the News Jan. 17 that the complaint had been resolved via “informal case resolution efforts,” with the department acknowledging it missed deadlines in regards to the News’s requests.
Bell made six recommendations to the department to avoid repetitions of the situation, all of which the department accepted.
The recommendations include:
-adding specific timelines and service standards to policies to provide clear guidance on when actions need to be taken during the life of an access request;
-having an “outward-facing” audit function that will track impeding deadlines for access-to-information requests, as well as deadlines that have been missed;
-adding language to policies and procedures that will include how to accurately calculate due dates for requests based on territorial legislation;
-updating policies and procedures to clarify the steps staff should take when processing requests;
-adding “very clear language” on how to react to missed deadlines or other non-compliance situations;
-and implementing an internal audit so the ATIPP office can review files, ensure the correct actions were taken at correct times and that everything is being documented the right way.
The recommendations are expected to be in place by the end of March.
Bell also made “informal” suggestions to the department on how to improve the ATIPP office’s workflow and on ensuring there’s ongoing training for both new and existing staff.
In an email, Department of Highways and Public Works spokesperson Oshea Jephson wrote that the ATIPP office responses to “almost 600 ATIPP requests a year and is committed to providing high-quality service to all the applicants we deal with.”
“However, we can always improve,” Jephson wrote, adding that on top of implementing the changes, the department is also “working on a robust implementation package in preparation of the new ATIPP Act.”
“This was an unfortunate mistake, however these changes will provide a framework for catching these before they happen,” he wrote. “In the event that an applicant feels their request is overdue or delayed, we encourage them to reach out to the office directly so we can help them get the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible.”
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