Responding to FOI audit report, City says it will “take actions to enhance openness and transparency”

FIPPA Commissioner Elizabeth Denham 2013, credit OIPC-BC(Updated.) Well, that was a quick response.

Seconds after B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released her “Audit & Compliance Report F16-01: City of Vancouver Duty to Assist”report online at 9:30 am today — about Vancouver’s FOI (Freedom of Information) program — the City issued its official statement in response.

The public is encouraged to review the Commissioner’s report, the City’s fresh promises, and keep an eye on progress.

Watch for further commentary by CityHallWatch and the media. Some interesting FOI case studies may turn up that occurred after the Commissioner’s information collection period. The Commissioner’s report is scathing — covering every step of the FOI process, an “adversarial” tone of the City towards information requesters, apparent attempts to circumvent searches for responsive documents, and systematic deletion of information.

From the OIPC: City of Vancouver Duty to Assist (June 23, 2016) — This report looks at the duty to assist, which requires public bodies to make every reasonable effort to assist each applicant openly, accurately and completely, without delay, throughout the freedom of information process. Download: https://www.oipc.bc.ca/media/16877/ac-report-f16-01_city-of-vancouver-23june2016.pdf

The City’s of Vancouver statement released at 9:30 am this morning follows:

City takes actions to enhance openness and transparency

The City of Vancouver will be acting on all 12 recommendations outlined by the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) in its audit and compliance report “City of Vancouver Duty to Assist.”

The City is committed to transparency and acknowledges the value and necessity of providing timely and meaningful access to information to the public. 

In November 2015, the City’s Access to Information program was selected to undergo a compliance review as part of the OIPC’s proactive audit and compliance program. 

The review focused on the City’s response to the requirement set out in Section 6(1) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that public bodies make every reasonable effort to assist applicants seeking the release of records. The City takes that obligation very seriously. 

During the three-year period covered by the review, the City processed approximately 1,200 FOI requests and has a robust access to information process in place. Nevertheless, the City welcomed the opportunity to participate in the compliance review and further improve internal processes.  

In addition to the actions required to implement the recommendations provided by the OIPC, City staff have been working to enhance the information made available to the public proactively on vancouver.ca. These improvements include:

o   The first release contains approximately 80 request files from January to May 2016. Moving forward, files will be posted monthly with the next release for requests completed to be posted during the first week of August. For the benefit of applicants, the public posting will be subject to a delay of 30 days following the release of information to the applicant. 

o   The City has reviewed records released between 2011 and 2015 and posted more than 50 FOI releases on matters of broad interest from this period.

  • The City’s Open Data website now contains 149 data sets including the recent addition of an Annual Remuneration Report for all City of Vancouver staff who earn more than $75,000 per year. View the open data catalogue here: vancouver.ca/your-government/open-data-catalogue.aspx.

o   This follows the recent posting of Council voting records in Open Data which was implemented in April 2016. The new dashboard will make it easier to view the voting record of Vancouver City Councilors since April 5, 2016 for Regular Council, Special Council, Standing Committee, and Public Hearing meeting types.

  • Additional details of service requests submitted through VanConnect, the City’s mobile app, are now available on the app.
  • In February 2016, City Council approved amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy By-law to appoint a single Head reflecting current City process and the practice of other municipalities. This has streamlined our Head Review processes and aided in more timely responses to FOI requests.

The 12 recommendations made by the OIPC are broken into the following four themes:

  1. Documentation of files and searching for records
  2. Timing of responses
  3. Content of responses
  4. Communication with applicants.

The City will be acting on the Commissioner’s recommendations and making improvements in each of these areas. The City will also provide the Commissioner with a report on efforts to implement the recommendations by the end of this calendar year. 

To read the City’s formal response to the report submitted on Tuesday, June 21, 2016 to the OIPC, visit: vancouver.ca/images/web/pdf/OIPC-audit-letter-to-commissioner.pdf.

To review the report and recommendations, visit oipc.bc.ca/report/audit-compliance/.

 

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City of Vancouver

Backgrounder

June 23, 2016

In 2014, the City launched a reports and data web page: vancouver.ca/your-government/reports-and-data. This is a central resource for documents in areas that are especially important to ensure transparency, accountability, and good governance:

  • Freedom of information
  • Internal audit reports
  • Awarded bids and Bid Committee reports
  • In-camera meetings
  • Open data
  • Public consultation

The City’s Open Data website was launched in September of 2009 with 20 basic datasets available for download. It now contains 149 datasets. Datasets are updated on a regularly scheduled basis, for example, the Council expense dataset is refreshed quarterly. High value datasets are added as they are identified.

In addition to Open Data, the City publicly posts a large amount of other detailed information such as:

  • In Camera Agendas and Reports
  • Budges and Finances
  • Annual Remuneration of all Positions earning $ 75,000 or more
  • Mayor’s Discretionary Fund Transactions
  • Parking Ticket Data
  • Water Consumption – top 50 Utility Accounts
  • City Council Annual Financial Disclosure Statements
  • Progress reports, documents, details and backgrounds on high profile City initiatives
  • Progress reports, documents, details and backgrounds on high profile developments and re-developments

Each year, the City receives between 350-400 Freedom of Information requests. The number of FOI requests received annually are:

2010: 398
2011: 410
2012: 355
2013: 377
2014: 386
2015: 431

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