Thursday, July 03, 2008

Saskatchewan Commissioner releases annual report

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Saskatchewan, Gary Dickson QC, has released his annual report today. Here is the "Quick Overview":
A Quick Overview

This is my fifth Annual Report as Saskatchewan’s first full-time Commissioner.

Some good progress has been achieved in terms of access to information and privacy compliance in a number of areas. In other areas, not enough has been achieved.

My intention is that this Annual Report provide both some perspective on the last four and one-half years and an outline of the challenges ahead for this office. The people of Saskatchewan deserve an access and privacy regime that is both robust and effective.

My commentary in this Annual Report needs to be qualified by the recognition that achieving such a regime captures much more than just the activities of our oversight office. It entails other features such as:

  • Effective and up-to-date legislation;

    Strong network of FOIP Coordinators in all government institutions and local authorities;

  • Comprehensive training program for all new public sector employees and contractors;
  • System of in-service training for all existing public sector employees; and
  • Detailed and practical manual that explains statutory requirements in plain language with checklists, specimen forms, and ‘decision trees’.
From the perspective of the individual in

Saskatchewan, a robust access and privacy regime would feature:

  • Relatively simple process to access one’s own personal information and to correct errors in that information;
  • Full and timely response to any access requests;
  • Relatively simple process to make a complaint that privacy requirements for a public body have not been met;
  • A senior, properly trained and qualified FOIP Coordinator for the relevant public body who can assist the citizen to exercise the rights created by our three access and privacy laws; and

    Reviews by our office to be completed in majority of cases within five months.

Two central themes have crystallized since I started in November 2003.

1. One is the largely unfinished state of our access and privacy regime despite the fact that FOIP is 16 years old.

2. The other is the burgeoning demand by Saskatchewan citizens and organizations for assistance from us in coping with what is seen as a fragmented, confusing and underresourced trio of laws.

This includes demand from public sector employees who want to do the right thing and who do wish to ensure their organizations meet access and privacy requirements.

Our last four and one-half years have seen significant increases in almost all areas of service. Formal reviews of access decisions and privacy complaints received by our office for the 2007-2008 fiscal year are 40% higher than the previous fiscal year. Requests to our office for summary advice are up 29%. Visitors to our website are up 20% over the previous year.

This increase in demand for assistance may be at least partly attributable to a lack of tools and resources available to those who need them.

That demand for service also reflects new developments that have dramatically sharpened the focus on personal health information, technical threats to privacy and the demand for transparent and accountable government at all levels.

The OIPC is supported by the Legislative Assembly Office that provides an array of services. We appreciate and rely on those resources.

I am very proud of what our small office has accomplished in the last four and onehalf years. The credit goes to the wonderful team of men and women in this office led by Diane Aldridge, Director of Compliance and Pamela Scott, Manager of Administration.

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