Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sask: Government flouting FOI laws

The latest report from the Information and Privacy Commissioner confirms once again the experience the CTF has with access requests to crowns and government departments.

In a nutshell:

  • Crowns were found to not be able, or willing, to substantiate their reasons for extending the mandatory 30-day time limit for responses to information requests.
  • Crowns vetting their responses through the PR folks in Calvert's office and disclosing the name of the applicant (which is contravention of provincial privacy laws)

The commissioner writes:

It is unclear what value is added to the process of responding to an access request by consulting with the Communications Branch. Presumably the purpose is to enable the political sensitivity of the request to be assessed by the Communications Branch. Since the decision has not yet been made by the relevant government institution, there must be a substantial risk that the Communications Branch may suggest or require that disclosure of certain records be declined or delayed not because of legitimate statutory exemptions in the Act but because of wholly extraneous considerations.

For those that use the system regularly, this finding will come as no surprise. I've been told directly by high-ranking officials that information will not be disclosed because I will "just hit them over the head with it."

I think the way SaskPower defended itself against the request for review says a lot about how how they view the process. In this case, some may assume the "applicant" is a member of the opposition.

SaskPower takes its obligations under FOIPP [sic] seriously and has always replied to access requests by this applicant within the time permitted under the legislation and in our view this request is clearly frivolous and/or vexatious in nature.

You see, who the "applicant" is and how many requests they make should be completely irrelevant here. But any appearance of being impartial is thrown out the window the minute they run responses through the Premier's office for approval.

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